Trim Your Sails, Heaven Awaits!
A Reflection on the Gospel of Luke 12:54-59
(Image from Official Regal Movies)
My grandfather was a sailor’s sailor. There was nothing that made him happier than being on his sailboat, aptly named, Liberator, literally flying with the wind on Galveston Bay. My grandfather would spend hours with my brothers and I explaining how the sail functions as a wing and how we use the wind as our engine to drive the boat at the greatest speed possible. It was not hard to get us to listen. Nothing is more exhilarating than a large boat under sail “reaching” or “running” with the wind. My Grandfather often exclaimed that a good sailor could use any wind, no matter how heavy or light, trim his or her sails and get where he or she needs to go. The secret, he often explained, is to:
Observe - Know how to read the signs in the sky to help understand wind direction and intensity.
Discern - My Grandfather often told us that nature constantly speaks, we have but to listen, understand, and consider courses of action. For him, nature speaks of God. It is nothing that we can control. It is something we must comprehend.
Act - A good sailor reads the wind and sky and then aligns his or her sails to it. Imagine seeing dark clouds building on the horizon and then simply ignoring it, maintaining course into the storm. A poor sailor that fails to act on the signs of nature is bound for catastrophe.
Only a fool refuses to observe, discern, and act based on the signs of the times. Even a child can look up, see a storm coming, understand the danger, and take shelter. In the Gospel today, Jesus tells the crowds following Him,
“When you see [a] cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain—and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot—and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Luke 12:54-56 NABRE)
Discernment is the answer to the Lord’s question. A discerning heart sees the signs in nature and takes actions accordingly. A discerning heart recognizes that there is no distinction between me or anyone else; “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Jesus is accusing us of using two kinds of reasoning: we apply logic to understand earthly things, but no logic at all in discerning our human destiny. We are like that sailor who steers straight into the storm. However, the sign of the times is clear for each and every soul. Death approaches, the judgement of God looms, and the result of that judgement is practically inescapable. Jesus tells us,
“Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? If you are to go with your opponent before a magistrate, make an effort to settle the matter on the way; otherwise your opponent will turn you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the constable, and the constable throw you into prison. I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” (Luke 57-59 NABRE)
So, what is the solution? We need to make peace as we are on the way. St Cyril of Alexandria puts it perfectly,
“Without exception, all of us on earth are guilty of offenses. Wicked Satan has a lawsuit against us and accuses us, because he is the enemy and the exactor. While we are on the way, before we have arrived at the end of our present life, let us deliver ourselves from him. Let us do away with the offenses of which we have been guilty. Let us close his mouth. Let us seize the grace that is by Christ that frees us from all debt and penalty and delivers us from fear and torment.” (St Cyril as quoted in Just)
Let us, as we are on the way to our destiny, seize the grace, an undeserved gift of forgiveness and mercy, and take shelter from the storm. The shelter is Christ on the cross. St Paul writes:
“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8–11 NABRE)
Through Christ we are justified, reconciled, and thus saved from the payment for every sin we ever committed. Then, observe, discern, and act through the Sacraments to close the mouth of Satan, the accuser for he is cast out and we are saved through the blood of the cross. (Revelation 12:10)
Our responsibility is, however, not for us alone. For we are our brother’s keeper. There continue to be many who have not even noticed the signs of the time. They are distracted by the bright lights of the world and blind guides who refuse to look up and see the storm approaching. It is for us to scatter the confusion and call them to safety. There is an urgency to this call. St Paul writes,
But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” (Romans 10:15 NABRE)
We are called to help all to discern the signs of the times and seek shelter in the shadow of the cross! Christ will not permit us to be overwhelmed, even if countless crosswinds blow. He will rebuke the winds and the sea and will bring about a great calm in place of any storm. Now is the time to observe, discern, and act! Trim your sails, heaven awaits!
Just, Arthur A., ed. Luke. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. Print. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.
New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Official Regal Movies. “In the Heart of the Sea -- Clip: We're Heading into a Storm.” In the Heart of the Sea -- Clip: We're Heading Into a Storm -- Regal Cinemas [HD], YouTube, 10 Dec. 2015.
Dcn. Mueller, I can't help but wonder, at times, if the Church's softening of our understanding of possible damnation is a misreading of discernment or reading the times attempting to open the Church to the modern world.
For example, how many parents wait to have their children baptized? And even those who have learned in theology spur the understanding of importance from Saints like Augustine. After all, the Catechism now states there is a hope that unbaptized babies will be saved. And so, what has been the result? The delaying of baptism because the Church has developed its teaching. Perhaps, a loss of faith in what baptism does? It has weakened in our modern world the understanding of the doctrine of original sin, in which most people now agree with Rousseau that people are generally born good.
And as a result, you write, "A discerning heart recognizes that there is no distinction between me or anyone else; “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) "
The Church has steered many toward the philosophy most are born good and will be saved--the philosophy of the world and folks like Rousseau. It is ultimately a rejection of biblical and traditional Christianity.
Thank you Deacon Miller for your reflection on today’s gospel. We can become so saturated by all the noise coming from social media that we forget to listen to the inner voice of Christ. “We are called to help all to discern the signs of the times and seek shelter in the shadow of the cross” really spoke to me today 🙏