Believers need the daring to treasure God’s power

Father John A. Kiley

A rustic chapel has served the summer community at Matunuck for decades. And now, as Rhode Islanders leave the chill of the Blackstone Valley and other spots north for the comforts of the shore line, St. Romuald’s Chapel has become a vibrant center of worship. The church dates back to 1908 and was first a mission from the cathedral parish – no doubt an overnight stay in those days. The parish patron, St. Romuald, came from a noble family in Ravenna, Italy. As a youth, the saint was reportedly quite mischievous, and by some accounts, even vicious. His father did not set a very good example.
In that era, noble families often engaged in conflicts over control of land, political power or family’s honor. Romuald’s father, Sergius degli Onesti, was involved in a violent conflict with a relative over land ownership. The dispute was carelessly resolved by a duel, which Sergius won by killing his relative. Although the nobility were no strangers to such conflicts, Romuald was horrified by his father’s violence. Romuald fled to a Benedictine monastery just south of Ravenna planning to remain for a forty-day retreat of prayer and penance to atone for his father’s sin. After forty days, however, he decided to stay and become a monk. Today the very solitary Camaldese monks follow St. Romuald’s lead in shunning the fierce and violent ways of the world for the peace and quiet of a secluded hut.
St. Romuald was scandalized by the abuse of physical power in the culture observed around him. His inspired solution was to divest himself of all earthly power and social dominance. In his brief monastic rule, he heartily advises his fellow monks: “Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor. Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God.” St. Romuald powerfully and courageously came to realize that authentic power is not secured with clubs or daggers or knives. God is the sole source of supremacy, strength and sovereignty. Romuald and his monks and now every sincere Christian must learn to appreciate that the power afforded by God’s grace, won by much personal sacrifice, certainly overwhelms any power secured by earthly force, no matter how potent the weapon.
In the first reading at Mass this coming Sunday, a bewildered Job (38:8-11) ponders the power displayed by the sea in front of him. He views a storm hurling cascading waves at the beaches. He notices the ominous clouds that shed torrential rains along the horizon and the coast. He observes the tempest’s darkness that the closes out the sun in the day and the stars at night. Yet, the Lord reminds Job that no matter how powerful the sea’s waves might appear during a storm, it is the Lord who has fixed the shore line. The sea can come no closer than the banks the Lord has determined. After the gale subsides, nature returns to the proportions determined by God. God is supreme!
The Psalm response continues the same theme of God’s control over mighty nature. The psalmist muses, “His command raised up a storm wind which tossed its waves on high. They mounted up to heaven; they sank to the depths; their hearts melted away in their plight. They cried to the LORD in their distress; from their straits he rescued them, He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled.” (Ps.107:25-26)Again, God’s power is supreme!
And not to be neglected, the same lesson of Divine power (Mk 4:35-41) is dramatically communicated by Jesus Christ himself calming a storm at sea. “A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.” To heighten the spectacle, St. Mark notes that Jesus was “asleep on a cushion.” The terrified disciples plead, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” The Master, suddenly awake, “rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm.” The disciples are in awe, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
So the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures agree that as threatening as human weapons might appear and as ominous as nature’s fury might emerge, the supremacy of Almighty God offsets them both. God’s power is never lacking. What is deficient is the believer’s faith and trust in God’s Divine power as well as the courage and resolution to act on that power. As St. Paul hopefully notes, “…new things have come!” (2 Cor 5:17) Like St. Romuald, believers need the daring to treasure God’s power, relying on him to change the world!