The wheel above my head squeaks as I slowly pull the rope, raising my water jar from the bottom of the well. Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I sigh in relief and think about today’s plans. I grab the lip of my water jar. It is such refreshment to touch the cool stone as I lift it out of the well.
Then, I hear it.
“Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2)
My heart races. These words strike me as important.
It is just a usual morning.
I walk into the water — it is a little cooler than yesterday. The rough rocks and sand brush up against my feet as the waves gently roll in and out.
Today was a good morning of fishing. My brother, Andrew, calls out to me. His net is worn from his last catch. “Peter,” he says, “you are so skilled at mending nets — can you help me?”
With my callused hands, I weave in the ropes of the net. It is rough — but this brings me joy … it is all too familiar to me. As I mend the net, I recall with my brother some childhood memories of fishing.
Everything seems so simple, calm, ordinary, comfortable. Until … I hear my name. No, this isn’t Andrew.
Maino, Juan Bautista, Pentecostes. c. 1612-1614, Oil on canvas, Museo Prado, via Wikimedia Commons.
“Beauty will save the world.” I have often pondered this quote by Dostoevsky in light of my work in art. But recently, I have been pondering its words in another context — the human person, God’s ultimate masterpiece — which, in all its richness, form, and authenticity, provides a beauty which seizes the heart.
In this painting, what stands out to you? There is lots of movement, vibrant colors, realistic forms.For myself, my eyes were immediately drawn to the two women — the Blessed Mother and Mary Magdalene.
These women are on fire with the Holy Spirit. They are truly captivating.
“The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them.”
A wound is something so very intimate.. It is a source of pain, a sign of weakness. But in the wound of Jesus in this painting, He shows us something. Wounds can be a place of meeting … A place of encounter.
How much Jesus longs to be close to us, but how easy can it be to close the door of our hearts and lock them, just like the locked door enclosing the apostles in the upper room? It is so much easier to hide ourselves in a false security of self-sufficiency.
One bright afternoon, in the springtime of Tennessee, I was out for an afternoon walk and decided to stop by one of my favorite spots. Taking a seat on the stone sidewalk where benches were perched, I reclined, looking at a crucifix at the forefront of a cemetery.
At this phase in my life, I was undergoing a pretty big trial. God was revealing past wounds to me and I was in the midst of some intense discernment of my vocation- a very painful process for me. In this hurt, one memory in particular would often come to the forefront of my mind.
I look at this boat, and I see a reflection of my heart. It is beaten and shook up—impending danger of crashing or sinking. I recognize my dwindled hope and frantic impulses in the expressions of the men aboard.
In my life, I strive to do whatever God tells me—to follow Him anywhere. On this journey, I have found myself in storm after storm after storm. My occupation is spontaneous, my Vocation is a mystery, and I cannot say with certainty whether I live east or west of the state of Minnesota.
“’Let us go across to the other side.’ … A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” (Mark 4: 35, 37)
We hear often that we as Christians are called to “give until it hurts” and are often directed to look to the poor widow who gave her last coin as a herald of true generosity. She held nothing back from God, giving until she had nothing left. Yet, as we consider this self-sacrificial type of giving, the hidden truth we are prone to overlook is that our ability to be generous is itself a gift from God.
Our ability to be generous is a reminder of God’s immense generosity toward us. The more we give, the more we are reminded of how much we have and how much we have been given by God. The word “generosity” is derived from the Latin word “generōsus” meaning “of noble birth”. When we act generously, we are reminded of our own nobility as sons and daughters of the King of kings. “Through a sincere gift of ourselves, we find ourselves”: Princes and Princesses in the heavenly kingdom (Saint John Paul II). Moreover, as Saint Therese of Lisieux reminds us, each of the sacrifices we make adds a pearl to our heavenly crowns. What a gift God gives us in each opportunity to give generously of ourselves!