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If you have gone through the darkness I have gone through — and, if you’re human, you have — I have hope for you. A hard hope, but that just makes it real.
The second season of my Extraordinary Storypodcast began in January, and the seven weekly episodes have gotten intensely personal — but in a way that will be helpful, I think.
In telling the story of Jesus Christ, starting from the Annunciation and headed toward the Resurrection, the podcast is meant to see how his story intersects with major intellectual upheavals of our time. But what I am finding out instead is how his story intersects with major personal upheavals in my life.
I have learned that Jesus often doesn’t solve problems. He does something even better.
The year 2021 was the hardest year of my life. It started in the Spring with the worst workplace crisis of my life. At the same time I experienced the worst spiritual crisis of my life. At the same time, family turmoil was worse than I could remember. And it all culminated in the worst health crisis I’ve had to face in my life.
Thank God that, at the same time, a member of my extended family recommended the work of Father William Watson, which meant I focused on Jesus Christ, front and center, through it all.
Now, that hellish year is bearing fruit as I share what I saw in Christ.
First, I learned to look at Jesus through John the Baptist’s eyes. Not John in the desert — John in the dungeon.
The podcast’s second season kicked off with the story of John the Baptist’s imprisonment and execution. The desert-dweller who slept under the stars was now a dungeon-dweller sleeping underground. The denouncer of those in power was now the detainee of those in power.
He had boldly announced that Jesus was coming with an axe to chop down the fruitless. Now he was the only one facing an axe — the one that would chop off his head at Herod’s command, for a dancing girl.
The voice of one crying out in the desert was now a voice asking from the darkness: “Are you the one, or do we await another?” I could relate.
Next, the Gerasene demoniac episode brought a horrifying story from my past to light.
I had finished writing the episode covering the possessed man when I asked a great priest I know if I should include a personal story about my own encounter with demons. He told me to pray about it, so I did — and opened up a commentary by the Fathers and read what St. Gregory the Great said about Jesus’ words to the cured demoniac.
Said Gregory: “A legion of demons has been, as I believe, cast out of me. I would prefer merely to forget all of this that I have known and simply to rest at the feet of the Savior. But lo it is said to me, so strongly as to compel me against my will, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”
So I, sheepishly, added my own story to the episode.
Ironically, though, other aspects of Jesus’ mission got just as significantly personal.
The Mission of the Twelve episode became a commentary on the question modern man asks: “Dare I disturb the universe?”
The answer came in the “Jesus, Interrupted” episode as I followed the woman with a hemorrhage through the crowd to the retreating figure of Jesus.
Then, the multiplication of the loaves answered the question, “What do you do when he turns around and asks you for all you have to give?”
What inspired me to write today, though, are the two episodes about storms on the Sea of Galilee.
In the first one, Jesus is asleep on the boat but the storm’s not stopping — just like he is in the tabernacle. But they wake him and he hushes the storm.
But the March 12 episode is about a storm Jesus doesn’t stop. Instead, he comes to the apostles walking on the water, one with the storm, and calls Peter to step out of the boat to join him.
That’s when it dawned on me that this is the reason for the whole podcast. Jesus doesn’t calm the storms of our life. Sometimes the storm is joined by another storm. Then another. Then another. Then, God help us, another.
But he is always there, inside the storm. We just have to find him and realize that, no, the conditions aren’t going to calm down — but we will, if we take our eyes off the waves and lock them in on him and his Extraordinary Story.