At the start of Autumn, we received our long-awaited rains. As has happened in other parts of Australia over recent weeks, the rain was too much of a good thing. At Saint Ignatius we have had flooding in the Year 10 rooms, the gym and much erosion and debris spread around our campus. St Thomas Primary, just down the hill had much more flooding and associated damage, to classrooms and offices. At one point the weigh of the water pushed the sandbags up against the entry doors, creating a pond outside the entry doors and a cascade through the building!
Over summer although we enjoyed the warmer weather, in recent times we have been waiting on the rain. Whilst we waited for the rain we were hopeful of the relief it would offer us in bringing the temperature down and also the new life it would herald. However, sometimes too much falls and what we have prepared can’t cope with the amount of rain we are given. Even though all of the drains and gutters had been cleared it was simply too much and could not be moved away quickly enough. This is metaphorically true in our lives in many ways.
We are often hopeful of our plans; the future and what may come tomorrow. We make preparations for what we will do when our plans eventuate and work toward these goals. When these things come to fruition we are sometimes caught unawares and are surprised by the result. We might hope for and await the rest and relaxation the holidays bring and then find towards the end that we feel restless and ‘bored’; we then long for school or work and the structure and business it brings!
It seems we are never truly satisfied. We always look for the next thing and wait for that point in time that will fulfill what we desire. When we reach that point there is always something that replaces it. We might renovate a room in our house and then be frustrated that the rest of the house is not as good as that room and although pleasant we never truly enjoy the renovated room as we are always thinking of the next thing; we move on.
St Ignatius was much like this. As a young man he was never satisfied. He went from one thing to the next, never pausing to reflect on the joy each triumph offered. For quite some time after his injury he was not ‘present’. He was dreaming of the future, awaiting the next operation that would make things better and then thinking of how he could get back to his ‘normal’ life. At some point there was an extraordinary moment that changed him forever. God opened his mind and heart to something different.
Inspired by this revelation Ignatius pursued God with the same vigor he used when chasing his old dreams. But by the river Cardoner he had a mystical experience that, that offered him insight into a way of connecting with God that transcends the everyday and can fulfill the restlessness that stirs within.
Ignatius’ legacy allows us to extend our humanity. When we take time to reflect we come to a point of detachment. The daily concerns, the three month goals and similar become secondary. Although important they are no longer moments or things that we attach our happiness to. What becomes of more importance and what offers contentment are those moments in which we encounter God.
We may find God in many different things. A relationship, an encounter with nature, a nice meal, a beautiful image… What satisfies us in that moment is identifying where this love, peace or joy comes from and developing the connection we have with God. Through the Church we can find God in all aspects. Through the sacraments and rituals in particular we are offered a connection with God. However the Church and Ignatius offer us many ways to find God and increase our relationship with God in our daily experiences. Our task is to be mindful of the Spirit of God that moves through our lives and throughout the world. Then to give thanks.
These floods remind us of the Easter story. In the dry summer, we wait for the rain and pin so much on how good it will be when it comes. In the same way, the Jewish people waited for their Messiah, and had great hopes for his coming. When the drought is broken by floods, our hopes are washed away. Just as for many of Christ’s followers, his crucifixion could have been the end of their dreams for Israel.
However, if we pause and consider all that has passed we can still find God. The floods bring us together as a community as we rally to get things back to normal. We need only to open our window and observe the life that springs forth from the rains. The birds are calling. The sky clears. For Jesus’ followers it was the same. The pain and suffering of the crucifixion gave way to a new season; the Easter season of life.
Brendon Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.