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  • Writer's pictureFr. Austin

Surviving or Thriving

Do you want to survive? Or do you want to thrive?

Survival is what the disciples in the boat were concerned about as they cried to Jesus during the storm. “Do you not care that we are perishing?” they complain to a sleepy Jesus. Survival is what drives us to recoil into ourselves, back into our safe caves and familiar routines, and keeps us mired in the “same stuff, different day” life. Ultimately, we fall into ruts and seek after any flashy new thing that promises something interesting.

Survival for human beings is a matter of inertia – that bodies at rest tend to stay at rest and bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. If we are content with life, we see no reason to change. However, there will always be forces that interrupt that inertia – equal or greater forces that draw us out of our comfort zones, either to exhilarate or terrify us. These are the “storms” that come up in life. For someone merely surviving, these storms are awful events. The goal in these moments is to weather the storm in order to return to a stasis that had been comfortable before.

Here’s a secret: we are all perishing!

You and I are in the midst of a storm that we call life. That is why I ask, do you want to survive, or do you want to thrive? Survival has to do with our effort – on our own. Thriving, however, is about God’s grace and our cooperation with it. The key to moving from the one to the other is faith; and faith is the message of the readings today.

Faith is the healing of the mind’s vision. To have faith is to be given a new set of eyes that allows us to see reality in its true dimensions. It gives us the contours of the invisible but very real world that our human senses cannot perceive. If the disciples had possessed that keener sight, they would not have been any the less aware of their danger, but they would have seen Christ “as He was”, the One who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; [who] made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands… [who] set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door.” They would have known that they were in good hands no matter what the immediate circumstances might be. St. Paul speaks of these new eyes of faith in the Second Reading: “From now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.” We used to see only with our human (fleshly) eyes. But we have been given the gift of faith, and our eyes have been opened to reality. We now see Christ, and one another, in the light of that clarified vision. We see truly.

To thrive as a disciple means that we understand that God is in control, that we belong to Christ, and that He has conquered the power of the Evil One. In Mark’s Gospel, the boat is a symbol of the Church – where the disciples are gathered and making their way through the world, often through chaotic waters. There will be storms, yes; but Jesus is also present, and we are called to always recognize His presence and look to Him as our guide.

Many Christians find themselves in the same anxious boat as their non-believing neighbors, staring with trepidation at the storm raging around them. We are very worried about what is happening in the world, in the country, in the Church, and in our own lives. Christ’s mild rebuke to his disciples might also be directed at us. Where is our faith? It won’t get us off the hook to point to the size of the waves and the high winds and the leaks in the boat. All that is clear enough. After all, we are all perishing sooner or later. The pertinent question is: Do we see truly? Do we perceive who Christ is? Do we know that the One who created the world and holds it in being, the One who rules the Church, and the One who counts every hair of our heads, is with us in the midst of the storm? Why, then, would we be afraid?

The Eucharist is Christ’s guarantee that He is with us always – accompanying us through the journey of life. In the middle of the storms, He is there. As we gather in Church, He is here. He gives Himself to us as our food and our sustenance. With Him, we are guaranteed ultimate victory. Do we want to just survive, or do we want to thrive?

Jesus makes all the difference.

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