By Ronnie Caballero, BCBP Makati
“He woke up, and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” Mark 4 :53-41
Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “ Do not be afraid, just have faith.” Mark 5:21-43
Last Friday February 17th in our BCBP Makati Chapter workshop we were having on Prayer , we were freely sharing about our experiences of answered prayers over our lifespan. Individually, there were certainly many awesome answered prayers. Some were of the healing of a loved one, surviving a dreaded disease, others the resolving of financial desert experiences and the fulfillment of the life-long dream of building the family home. All were certainly sincere and well grounded petitions which the Lord gracefully answered but I do certainly believe that he means to call us up further in an upward call.
As young ‘baby’ Christians it is most certain that prayers of healing or ‘hiling ng hiling’ dominate our prayer life. There is certainly nothing wrong for us running into the loving arms of the Father or to the feet of our Blessed Mother for intercession for our concerns. How many ‘manangs’ are armed with all the novena booklets noting carefully which day or number of days and which church is the correct venue for the said petition. Sadly sometimes some such ‘manangs’ still are not imbued with Christian virtue despite such rote practices as have so many Sunday sermons have indicated.
Or even the thousands of men that throng the Nazareno of Quiapo for a day as a punishing ‘panata’ on bare feet for a 16 hour procession for a feast day only to return to a yearlong life of vice or even perhaps crime. Or maybe within our own chapters why have some resisted change in character and fail in tests of integrity. One member after stepping down from a term of chapter service sighed, “ Ah now I can curse again!” Or maybe even our own country, a puzzlement for many, seen as 90 percent Christian but lacking the morals in society and government. Eighty five percent Catholic with only 10 percent going to Sunday masses. I believe the key lies in the quality and focus of our prayer.
Archbishop Luis Tagle D.D. in his book ‘An Easter People- Our Christian Vocation to be messengers of Hope’ says, “ To wait in prayer is to become receptive, humble persons, persevering persons, hopeful persons. The quality of prayer becomes the quality of the person. “
This certainly now begs the question as to what quality of prayer is needed. And I will persist first to define in my experience this type of personal prayer before progressing to community prayer in another article.
Small Change-The Currency of Transformation
I picked up that jewel of a phrase from a 4-Day recollection last January 26, 2012, with Margaret Silf, a world-renowned Ignatian lay specialist at the ISO Complex in Ateneo. She started with a section on “Living God’s Dream”. She proposes that what we need to do is to detect God’s dream within us. Sometimes it is our own basic ‘desires’ which will lead us to see God’s dream within us. God certainly knows of our uniqueness and he desires that which is precious in us. What is needed is to explore ourselves until our own desires and dream point us towards God’s dream for us until like St. Augustine we are able to express, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” And that process is transformative prayer.
In my own experience of the Retreat in Daily Life (RDL) a 14 week open retreat where I committed to pray daily accompanied in prayer by a guide, I was often asked, “What changes do you see in yourself in the past week?” You see this was all because the focus and direction of prayer was to simply encounter the Lord as distinguished from petitions. Allow God to be God and not direct the prayer yourself. As was the instruction of St. Ignatius, “Look long,” do not shift your focus. True enough, there were movements of the Spirit that brought a lot of joy and continuing purpose to deepen the search. And on one occasion I shared that I am finding myself becoming more loving. On an ‘ambush interview’ recorded by my children for my wife’s birthday I exclaimed into the video camera that “ If I were given a choice as to who will leave this world first, I would choose myself as I could not bear the thought of living in this world without her(my wife).”
To me, personally, this is the platform of my ‘bagong tipanan’, a new covenant with the Lord in prayer, to wait patiently, to beg for his presence, using all my senses in receptivity, fighting all distractions to remain focused and in hope. The end result desired is loving transformation.
I also shared in that Chapter workshop that there was a time that I just faithfully attended many of the Chapter’s activities not knowing if there was certainly any apparent benefit. Unaware that when one of the darkest moments of my life arrived I saw (in retrospect now) that all of those spiritual activities were the transforming preparation I needed to be steadfast in the face of those trials. It was also a time when I had developed a network of deep relationships with spiritually mature people who could be my guides in the storm. And also with much emphasis, one of the guides then made me realize that God had already grown in my heart a love SO STRONG, a sturdy ANCHOR that I thought I never had, that enabled me transcend years of ferocious waves until the calm seas came.
And yet the Lord is not done with me. I continue to chase his dream for me. Like the disciples adrift in the storm with him sometimes I doubt when I see him asleep on a cushion while I am terrified by life’s concerns or when I see him motionless on a crucifix, his eyes shut in death seemingly unreachable. What we miss in this Gospel story is who is awakened on the boat. In that storm an exhausted human goes to sleep; when awakened he is a transfigured divine person ready to command the storm and the turbulent seas. On the cross, he seems a misunderstood prophet persecuted and killed only to awake RESURRECTED as a transfigured Savior, our Way, Truth and Life and model for eternal change.
Sometimes that is exactly what I fail to see or remember that this life is about a journey with God as our main companion on that boat of transformation and transcendence. That if I persist in that new covenant of prayer with Him those SMALL changes (the currency of transformation) will soon in His time impact my life and my eternal soul with changes that please my Creator as those mirroring his dream. The ‘bagong tipan’ of Follow Me in transcendence, trusting Him in FAITH through the trials rather than asking Him to take that CUP away from ourselves becomes the challenge and focus of transformative prayer.
When the Lord exclaimed on the cross, “It is finished”, I know that He meant He had become the model of transcendence and transfiguration ( as he walked the road of Emmaus) for all of us TO FOLLOW towards our own transfiguration and the place he has prepared for us in His Kingdom.