A few years ago, I went rafting white water on the Miño River in Galicia, in North-Western Spain. It was new for me. I must confess that I was not very happy with the idea. I don't really like adventures or dangerous sports. But anyway I went there because I didn't want to see my nieces and nephews laughing at me. I was on holidays with my family.
At the starting point everyone got a lifejacket and an oar. We walked down to the riverside ready to enjoy the adventure on a very nice summer evening. At the riverside we got into the boat and sat down. We were advised not to take off our life jacket until the end of our trip and they explained what we should do if someone fell into the river .
We started going down river. At the beginning it was quite calm. We were rowing quietly but the man who was behind us in the boat, the one who was working the tiller, said: "we are approaching the first rapid, row as hard as you can while we are passing through it", "If someone falls into the river, let the stream bring him or her along". "Don't try swimming, just let yourself go".
Just like our lives, I thought, the river goes sometimes calmly , sometimes roughly. Sometimes we can contemplate God's work, sometimes we just move forward trying to keep ourselves afloat in the troubled waters.
One hour later we beached the boat and enjoyed swimming for a while before we continued rowing along the river. When later on we were going to approach the last rapid the tiller man invited us to jump into the river and go swimming through the rapid. "This is the last opportunity, he said, those who want to take the risk must jump right now and follow the stream. Don't try swimming, just let yourself go. The river will bring you along. When you have passed through the rapid swim to the riverside".
I started swimming toward the riverside and it was then that I realised I had a lifejacket. It was impossible for me to swim as I usually do. The lifejacket was there keeping me afloat and I had to discover how to swim wearing my jacket. I got to the riverside eventually and carrying the boat up to the mountain we arrived at the starting point. It had been coming, I thought.
I knew that what I had lived in the river had been more than a simple pleasant rafting adventure although I didn't know why.
As if rewinding a film and playing it again I relived the descent of the rapids but now picking up the full meaning.
I realised how afraid I was of jumping into the river, but I was invited to jump. And only by jumping, was I able to recognise that I was wearing my lifejacket. That is Jesus, the lifejacket we wear because of our baptism almost without realising it. But now, "living" in the river, I am safe. But I was used to swimming by myself and now, living in the river, I must learn a new way of swimming, joining my efforts to the Lord's presence, The Lord has already saved me and keeps me afloat. It is neither my ability nor my effort that keep me afloat.
And what about the water? I remembered Ezekiel's prophecy: "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes".
This is referring to the action of the Holy Spirit. As you know water and rivers are common images in the Bible in relation with the Holy Spirit. I was invited to jump into the Holy Spirit's stream. The stream is bringing us to our Father, safely because of our " life jacket". It doesn't mean that the way down to the sea is going to be always quiet. There are rapids on the way down, because of the uneven lands, but the Spirit stream, if we allow ourselves to let go, will always bring us up.
We were warned before. There are whirlpools where we can be sucked in, but in this case we must trust in our lifejacket which will refloat us. We are not alone, we are dressed by God with our "lifejacket", our Saviour. We can't swim against the stream. I tried to do it in order to rescue Paula, but it was impossible for me, I had to follow my own path. I just alerted the tiller worker and he went to help her. We have to accept this many times in our lives. Others are also being looked after by the Lord who rescues them through those who are more expert. But, don't forget to alert Him. Well, He knows what happen to us, but He has invited us to pray for each other.
As St. Paul says: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
We are invited to grow up, to discover how to live the river life, how to swim trusting in God's action, which is saving our lives and conducting them to the Father's love. This is when we are fully surrounded by the river waters, and we can be totally purified by the water, having given our lives up to the Spirit action.
When we jump into the river we understand
how true is this Irish prayer: