By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Continuing to trust in God in the darkest hour – even during natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey - is one of the spiritual lessons revealed in the crucifixion of Christ, says Rev. Ron Rolheiser.

“It’s the worst tragedy that’s struck Texas and ironically, it brought out the best in everyone,” said Rolheiser, now an internationally recognized author and theologian who taught at Newman Theological College in the 1980s.

Rolheiser presented a public lecture on Trust: The Hidden Secret of the Cross, at St. Albert Parish hall on Sept. 15, and led a three-day retreat at the Star of the North Centre in St. Albert.

“People who couldn’t talk to each other are now living in each others’ houses,” said Rolheiser, who is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.

“For the last two weeks, there have been no Democrats, no Republicans, no liberals, conservatives, no pro-life, pro-choice, no black, no white, no Hispanic — you just have people, and they’re all neighbours.

“Sometimes, we need a shakeup, and we just saw it.”

Rolheiser said Hurricane Harvey, which struck the Gulf coast of Texas in August, is a modern-day reminder of how it is the darkest hour that often brings the most light.

“Go right back to Jesus on the cross: remember, he’s not dying serenely. He’s going, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Seconds before he dies, Jesus feels as though there is no God,” Rolheiser said. “When Jesus died on the cross, it was a great act of trust. And the Father raised Him.”

Rolheiser led a retreat, entitled Dark Nights and Doubt: A Failure of Faith or a Failure of Imagination?,  that explored the inner dynamics of faith and doubt.

He said the “dark nights of the soul” — those nights when you wake up in bed, trying to imagine God’s existence and can’t — are not a failure of faith.

“God gives you darkness, because when your imagination completely goes dry, then God can flow it to you clearly,” he said.

“The way God purifies your faith is, basically, God takes away your power to imagine. And then when you’re just absolutely down on your knees then God can flow in purity and you can’t fudge the experience anymore. And that is why so much of spirituality is not about learning something, it’s about emptying.”

Sometimes, darkness just has its hour and there’s nothing you can do other than what the Book of Lamentations (3:29) says: put your mouth to the dust and wait.

“Jesus died a terrible, humiliating death by crucifixion. That ultimate humiliation is what heals the things that humiliate us,” he said. “Jesus took in hatred and he transformed it and gave back love. He took in curses, transformed it and gave back blessings. He ultimately took a murder and transformed it into our forgiveness.

“Any humiliation and even death itself  ̶  look at the cross and that’s what’s going to cure you.”

Rolheiser will return to the Edmonton area November 9-10, to speak at an event sponsored by Newman Theological College.