The very idea of ghosts and spirits can be terrifying. When I was a young man of 20, a friend of mine and I were having a deep conversation talking and discussing real life experiences with ghosts. The room was dimly-lit, it was late, it was two of us alone, and the stories we shared were frightening. Today, looking back and reading the gospel of Jesus first appearing to the disciples, I think: how did they hold it together after seeing Him die on the cross?
Reflecting back to how I felt with my friend talking about ghosts, I can clearly recall my heart thumping as we shared our experiences. I was extremely aware of my surroundings. Every sound was magnified and catalogued, every movement was discernable to my eye. I was hyper aware. Every sense was acute. Is that how the disciples felt that night in the upper room?
The experience made such an impact on me that I remember it even though it was 30 years ago. Could being terrified be a positive?
We know we are alive.
Does it make us more religious? Asked another way, does terrifying experiences bring us closer to God?
One of the priests I have interviewed in my Priest Podcast had a great story about religion and being terrified. I will give you the spirit of the story. You can listen to it here.
Father David was in the Navy before he became a priest. He always practiced his faith outwardly and those around him knew he was Catholic. He never outright preached in the Navy, trying to convert others. His way is one of example, not hiding but inviting. Very Pope Francis.
On occasion others would poke fun of his faith. “Mock” may be too harsh of a word, but the words were negative. I am certain many of us have encountered this same type of verbal passive-aggressiveness.
There goes Peter, off to church, to save the rest of us. Services on Sunday, David, are you kidding me? I need to sleep off a great Friday and Saturday. If He is King of the Jews, let’s see Him save Himself from the cross. I am sure many of you have examples.
The point is everyone knew Father David was Catholic and carried a rosary with him. One day on a mission he and his team were flying through bad weather. The military plane was probably not in danger of going down but was in enough turbulence to scare the men. One of the commanders, a nonbeliever, came up to him and asked him to take out his rosary and pray for them and a safe flight. Father David was surprised at the request.
But of course, Father David did as requested. This made an indelible mark on him as he knew this man did not believe. However, being scared brings out faith. Innately, even if one does not believe, when in the face of something unknown, we want to believe in God. A higher power.
There are many moments in life when we are scared. We close our eyes and make deals with Jesus. If only you get me through this Jesus, I will never sin again. I will be nice, I will go to church every Sunday, I will…you get the point. These are opportunities to get closer to God.
Going back to the disciples, Jesus was a ghost to them. Until He said “Peace be with you,” they were terrified in that room together.
Maybe ghosts are not such a “bad” thing. Maybe being “scared” is not such a bad thing. We are alive with experiences. Do not shy away from these. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Invite others. Faith is found all around us. There are opportunities to being us closer to God.
To quote the Bible: You are a witness of these things.
Copyright 2016 Peter Serzo.