20 June 2021
Job 38.1, 8-11 2 Cor. 5.14-17 Mark 4.35-41
There is a story about a sea captain who in his retirement skippered a boat taking day-trippers to the Shetland Islands. On one trip the boat was full of young people. These laughed at the old captain when they saw him saying a prayer before setting out, because the day was fine and the sea was calm. However, they weren’t long out at sea when a storm suddenly blew up, and the boat began to pitch violently. The terrified passengers came to the captain and asked him to join them at prayer. But he replied, ‘I say my prayers when it’s calm. When it’s rough I attend to my ship’.
Is there not a lesson for us here? If we cannot or will not seek God in the still moments of our lives, we are not likely to find him when trouble strikes. We are more likely to panic. But if we have learnt to seek him and trust him in the quiet moments, then most certainly we will find him when the going gets rough.
Life can be compared to a voyage. Some people hold the view, “paddle your own canoe”. The life of a Christian is not meant to be a solo voyage. We journey with our own fellow Christians, and thus are able to support each other in times of difficulty.
In the gospel today Jesus told the disciples to cross over to the other side of the lake. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, sleeping, with his head on a cushion. They woke him and said to him. ‘Do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea: ‘Quiet now, be calm! And the wind dropped and all was calm again.’ Then he said to them: ’Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?
For the Jews the sea and wind were seen as signs of evil and chaos which God only could control (1st reading). But the storm can also stand for the trials and difficulties each of us can suffer in life.
In calming the storm the disciples witnessed the divine power of Jesus at work. The disciples were really in awe at what Jesus did and were being given another insight into who he really was. It was interesting that when Jesus was in the boat during the storm he was asleep in the stern. He showed his tremendous faith and trust in his Father and also assumed that the disciples, as seasoned fishermen, knew how to deal with the elements. The scene showed whom the disciples were really worried about, not so much Jesus but themselves and their own safety. ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down’!
Are we not also like this too at least sometimes? When the storms come into our own lives like a tragedy – a severe sickness, Coronavirus, a sudden death of a loved one, an unexpected ‘bad’ event etc. maybe we think that God doesn’t care. But he is always there even if we think he isn’t. God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way that we want but our faith tells us that he is surely with us giving us the courage, strength and perseverance that we need to cope with the particular event / situation we are asking help for.
Don’t we like to be in control of our lives? To be ‘not in control’ is not a pleasant experience. We experience small signs of it when we get caught in a very slow and long traffic jam, yet especially with more serious cases when it is severe illness and tragedy. To find oneself in such a situation is both humbling and terrifying. But it is precisely at these times that we find we discover if we have faith and trust in God.
It reminds me of the story of a little boy who was calmly reading in a plane caught in an electric storm with great turbulence. The passenger next to him who was terrified asked him: ‘are you not scared to death like I am?’ ‘No’, he replied ‘why should I be? My father is the pilot of this plane’!
For the early Christians this miracle is very relevant. The boat represented the Church, and the storm the persecutions unleashed on it by evil powers that wanted to wreck it.
If we have faith we will not doubt that he is with us, and we will turn to him in prayer and know his help. The story challenges us to trust in God’s power especially when storms assail us. When we have faith we give up the need to be in control.
‘Lord increase our faith and trust in you especially in the storms of life that come our way’.
Edited from a sermon prepared by the late Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA