The night is ending, darkness making way for light, winter has gone, and spring is here. Usually when we think about spring, we imagine a season full of hope because wherever we go, we see life in all its splendor, trees, flowers, birds; what was dry and brown turns green again and the circle of life starts once again. However, in this beautiful spring we find some days when the clouds cover the sky, and the north wind makes the temperature drop dramatically. The following reflection which I want to share happened on one of those cold spring evenings when the wind was coming off the sea, and the sea was rough.
It was Wednesday, the rain was pouring down, and the wind made walking difficult. I had wanted to walk from the university to my place in Hadang, a walk which usually takes about thirty-five to forty minutes. However, the people with me would not let me walk because the wind was so strong and the rain heavy. So instead of walking they pushed me into a car and brought me home. I must admit that I was very grateful for their kindness and their concern.
However, at the same time I was a bit frustrated because I had really wanted to walk. When I got home it was about eight-thirty in the evening, I changed my clothes into something more comfortable, and when the rain eventually stopped, I decided to go out for a walk in the dark of night. When I went out onto the street, I realized that the wind was blowing even stronger now, but I decided to go ahead and keep walking.
Walking a little path through a tunnel I saw a sign pointing towards somewhere called gatbawi, so I decided to go that direction. On reaching my destination I realized that the path went over a kind of floating bridge. Because of the rough sea the bridge was moving from side to side and creaking to the point of sounding as though it were about to collapse. I could easily have gone back to the comfort of my place or I could face up to the situation and keep going. Finally, I decided to go ahead, all the time thinking to myself, in hope, that I’m a good swimmer. Crossing over the bridge it and I were swaying from one side to the other and up and down at the same time.
On another day, when the ocean was calm like a pane of glass, I returned to the place I had walked to that stormy evening. While there I noticed an explanation about a legend associated with the place. That legend tells how a young man, whose father was very ill, decided to go far away to get a job and make money to help his father. After a period, when he returned home with money and food for his father, the young man found that his father had passed away about two months previously. On finding this he took his father’s corpse and went to bury him in a proper manner. He was walking across the cliff edge when he slid and his father’s corpse fell into the sea. The young man was so sad and filled with regret that he himself sat down, began to cry until he died, and the sea eventually turned his body into a rock made of salt. So now you can see two rocks that have human shapes, one beside the other. One rock represents the son wearing a traditional Korean funeral hat.
Thinking about my experience and the legend of gatbawi, I was inspired to look to the future with hope. When we humans pass through times of chance, we face both challenge and crisis. In addition, because of our human condition there are times when it is normal to be afraid. The question is, when we are afraid what do we do? Are we strong enough to face those challenges? Or do we run to our secure places and hide and wait for the stormy seas to calm down?
We are passing through a time of change, changes that may seem like a dark and windy winter’s night, and Jesus is telling us, “Come to me, do not be afraid.” We need to let go and keep going; face our fears without worry and know that Jesus is with us. We should not be like the young man in the story who spent his life alone at the cliff crying out for what was not going to come back. It is always good to look into the past, acknowledge the good things, and learn from our mistakes, but being stuck in the past leads us nowhere.
If we look to the future with hope, welcoming whatever comes our way, no matter how stormy it might become there will always be hope and life. We are called to be lights and leaders in order to build something for Christ, the Church and our Society, and not for ourselves. St. Columban’s words tell us to be of Christ’s and not of our own. These words point us towards leaving our comfort zones and facing the future with bravery.
Columban Fr. Gonzalo Borquez lives and works in Korea.