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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Clinging to the Rock

I was actually going to re-post an old one that seems to take today's readings to heart, but instead, I'm going to re-write it, following the Psalm, which our Music Director found it necessary to ignore today. I don't know what psalter from which she was reading, but the very idea did not even match in the most remote way, the readings for today! And I left Mass feeling somewhat deprived.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 31:2-3, 3-4, 17, 25

R. (3b) Lord, be my rock of safety.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me,
incline your ear to me,
make haste to deliver me!
R. Lord, be my rock of safety.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Lord, be my rock of safety.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
Take courage and be stouthearted,
all you who hope in the LORD.
R. Lord, be my rock of safety.

Back in September 2001 when I was at the Fire Dept. Training Tower, a friend A. and I were the first to experience one of the first evolutions. They "smoked up" one of the buildings and sent us in to fight the fire. It was just he and I and the "charged" hoseline which snaked back to the Engine, which in turn was attached to the hydrant.

We wore our full turnouts; coat, trousers, SCBA (Self-Contained-Breathing-Apparatus), helmets, gloves, etc. I was assigned to the nozzle, so my job was to go in first, keeping my hand on the cement wall and following in until we found the fire. A. was behind me, and his job was to "roll" the hoseline, trusting me to keep us on track. His was the harder job. Indeed, I had to lead inward, but he did more work.

(FYI: In the "real world", the rookie was on the nozzle and the Captain was in 2nd position so as to both roll the hoseline in properly and to push the rookie.)

We began outside, and I turned on my air tank, released the air from the hoseline, and when we were given the signal, I touched the exterior door with the back of my hand as we'd been trained and opened it. A. and I went in, entering into the smoke and pitch darkness, crawling, immediately going up the stairs because there was no other way to go. Step by step, we proceeded, agonizingly slowly. The turnout pants were slightly padded, but not a lot, and it didn't help that I nailed my already-aching knees on the corners of the steps! And I kept my hand on the wall, while behind me, A. was laboring to pull more hoseline, our grunts of effort and muffled conversation encouraging each other in our respective teamwork.

About half-way up, I began to panic. I knew I was sucking too much air. I knew that we were moving too slowly. I knew that somewhere, the fire, and even worse, the CAPTAIN awaited impatiently, and all I wanted to do was leave. I was enclosed in my mask. I couldn't see anything ahead of me or behind me. I had the nozzle in my right hand, the wall on my left, my knees on the hard cement below. I was sweating, breathing hard, and wanting only to escape this terrible blackness!

And then I realized; as long as my hand was against that wall, we were fine. We could follow the wall back out the door, easily. It didn't matter that we couldn't see; it only mattered that we knew our reference point, and that reference point was solid and it wasn't moving. Our scenario may change, our hoseline may even burst and drench us. But we couldn't lose contact with the rock that we followed and that rock would lead us back out the door to safety. No matter what happened, that rock was solid and we were safe.

Realizing this I continued onward, we proceeded to the top, found the fire (with some impatient direction from the dreaded Captain) and put it out. And we followed that wall back out.


Life isn't easy. We often don't know where we're going. We don't know if we're going into the fire, or if we're going into a collapse or even a storm. We only know that Christ is our Rock, our reference point, and as long as we don't let go, we'll be safe. Even if our lives are required of us, as long as we cling to Christ, we will never be lost.

I've been constantly amazed by the necessity and the solidity of Jesus and His Church which has remained firm and guided me in the worst life has thrown at me. Even when I didn't realize it, the tether that is the Sacraments, the indelible mark placed upon my soul, has kept me in contact with saving Grace. Even when I looked the other way, I see now that the Sacraments meant that although I had let go, Jesus had never let go of ME. He used everything to bring me back home, and He still does.

Our Rock saves us; we MUST cling to the Rock no matter what winds buffet us and seek to pull us away; but He also clings to us in return, reminding us to never let go, for He desires that not a single one of us be lost.

When we are crawling, painfully through all the darkness of life, we have to remember to never let go of Christ, to never stop believing, to never let us be pulled away. It's not enough to call the name of Jesus; we have to LIVE it. We have to keep working, to keep clinging, for it is not only faith that saves us, but our direct cooperation with saving grace, and our willingness to cling to Christ even if it means we face our own death in a darkness we cannot comprehend.

In my training as a firefighter, I realized that I may be called to give my life. The same applied to my training in law enforcement. Yet, we as Catholics are rarely reminded that we might truly be called to die for Christ.

I was willing to die for a building and the people who might be in it. I was willing to die for that ideal, but at the time, I didn't even consider that there was something far greater; to die for Christ.

In our world today many are dying for their faith in Christ, and all of us may be called to the same thing. And you have to ask yourself...are you willing to DIE for what you believe? Are you truly willing to DIE for the truth?

Eventually I did decide that I was not called to die to save buildings, but rather, I was called to consider something that transcends all of us; Jesus Christ. Am I willing to die for Him? Am I willing to die for His Church?

As long as I cling to Him, I think so, and I pray, if that time comes, that I won't ever let go, no matter what happens.


uncle jim said...

what a wonderful application to the message of today's assigned psalm response [the one your music director did not use].

i always like the way that St Gregory the Great applied and interpreted Holy Scripture. he was very practical in the way he took events and applied scripture to them.

we did sing the proper psalm response today - and i think my response was similar to yours regarding our 'Rock'.

swissmiss said...

OT question for you. Are you able to don your own SCBA equipment or is it something you need to have someone help you with? Back when I was working, we were trained to be first responders (in case of a chemical spill/accident) and our SCBA equipment required another person to assist you.

At St. Agnes we had the proper "rock" psalm. I don't understand why musical directors change up things like this. Kind of jarring, IMHO!

adoro said...

We could don our SCBA's ourselves, the entire thing only weighed around 25 pounds. Even when we did Haz Mat training we used the same SCBA and then the "gumbi suits" went over it. (Try wearing a gumbi suit on a 98 degree day! Miserable!)