I do like the story in today’s Gospel about Jesus calming
the storm. It is easy for us to imagine the rising panic of
the disciples and contrast it with Jesus who is completely
at peace with himself as he sleeps in the stern of the boat
with his head on a cushion.
The Lake of Galilee is relatively shallow and so when the wind whips up the sea can get a bit wild. A storm can blow up very quickly and this can be quite devastating for boats that cannot find shelter speedily enough. In such a situation panic would be the default emotion.
Jesus, however, is not perturbed at all; he sleeps on in the stern of the boat and only wakes when the disciples call him. When he does awake all is done quietly and patiently; he simply rebukes the storm and restores the calm. He then asks them why they are frightened and seems to link this with their lack of faith.
Jesus is, of course, the author of creation. As the Son of the Father he was in existence before any of creation was brought into being. He has no fear of weather or of anything else; it does not control him, no, he controls it.
I don’t doubt that this incident actually took place; it doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing that the disciples would have invented because it puts them in a bad light, especially the remark by Jesus that they have no faith. No it is a story with the ring of truth about it, especially the little detail about him lying with his head on a cushion.
But to me this story has a deeper sense because I think that it has a meaning beyond that particular journey across the Sea of Galilee. I think that we can see this story as an analogy for the storms of life that all of us have to face.
Many of us experience a severe buffeting as we make our journey through life. From time to time in life we suffer illness, loss, pain, separation, straightened circumstances, hardship and so on.
I hazard to say that most of us experience several of these things at various points in our life; however there are some people though who, through no fault of their own, experience a whole succession of misfortunes.
We all know of people who have suffered a series of close bereavements, or multiple illnesses, or long-lasting financial problems or extreme difficulties with their relationships. We observe how such people seem to constantly be passing from one crisis to the next. Or it could be ourselves who are so unfortunate.
These are the storms of life and while we all experience them to some extent certain people surely endure far more than others.
In the storm on the Sea of Galilee the disciples panic, they eventually wake Jesus and they ask him a most telling question, “Do you not care?” They were afraid that the boat would sink. In the face of the storms of life we too frequently panic and often enough the very same question is on our lips. We too ask God in prayer, “Do you not care?”
Sometimes when we most need God we feel that he is not there or that he doesn’t care. In addition to the troubles of life we sometimes also feel that God has cast us aside. We come to the conclusion that he has neglected us and that he doesn’t care. We feel bereft.
A woman in a previous parish who had suffered a lot of personal illness and tragedy culminating in the death of both her husband and her son within a few months was talking to me about what she had endured. At one point she shook her fist at heaven and said with strong feeling, “There is nothing more he can throw at me now!”
There is always the problem of whether our perception and the actual reality correspond or not. In times of extreme difficulty we may feel that God has deserted us but we need to know whether he actually has or not.
We are often so overwhelmed by our feelings and they so hem us in that we cannot easily distinguish the facts of the situation. Sometimes distance is necessary before we can uncover the true reality of the situation.
Oftentimes it feels as though God is far away, as if he has pressing concerns on the other side of the world. Or, as in the Gospel story today, we think he might be asleep in the stern of the boat with his head on a cushion, completely oblivious to the storm which assails us.
In the cold light of day we know that to use terms such as near or far away to describe God’s presence is absolutely useless. God is never near or far away; God is always completely present to us.
I don’t want to say that God is static but these terms which speak of God’s distance from us do not serve us well. God is always close, always understanding, always healing, always loving, always protecting. What is near or far is our perception of him, our feelings of his closeness or distance.
One of the problems that arises when we are experiencing the storms of life is that we think in terms of bad things happening to us. We see loss, illness, pain and so on as negative things. We perceive suffering as something wholly bad.
But when we open the eyes of faith we are able to understand that our sufferings are not actually negative; we come to realise that our sufferings are filled with meaning. In short, they are redemptive.
Faith tells us that the seemingly negative things that happen are all part of God’s purposes. These things strengthen us, they test our love, they give us resolve, they make our faith stronger, and they prepare us for heaven.
Of course, all this only becomes apparent in perspective. It takes time to work through our sufferings in order to see them in their true light. We will eventually see the hand of God in the so-called misfortunes of life. We will eventually come to realize that God is mysteriously showing his love for us through what we at first thought were things which were wholly negative.
We may suffer but we will be vindicated. The Lord will awaken and calm the storms of life enabling us to safely enter our final harbor which is eternal life. It is only then that we will gain true perspective and see our misfortunes for what they really are –signs of God’s great love for us.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
June 21, 2015
Twelfth Sunday: Peace in the Turmoil
As I was thinking about the readings for this week and the fact that this Sunday is Father’s Day, (Let’s hear it for equal time for the dads!), I reflected on a series of complaints that I often hear from some of our fathers. They go something like this: “You know, I would just like to have a few days without turmoil. Somebody in the family is usually in trouble, most often me. This Teen missed her curfew, that child lied to us, my wife is upset over something someone said to her, and somehow, beyond my knowledge, I get blamed for part if not all of it. There’s sickness, someone is always not feeling well and that is scary particularly when it is the children. There’s the bills. I’m not even going to go there. And then there are the relatives. I can’t figure out whose family is crazier, mine or hers, but they are running a tight race. Then there is work which so help me I wouldn’t do if they didn’t pay me. I turn on the news. What a break that is. I’m not sure if we are going into global warming or global freezing, but somehow it’s going to be bad. Between the politicians, the economy, and world events, every day it looks like everything is even worse than the day before. The world is in turmoil.”
Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Mark 4: 35–41
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus is presented as one who loves to tell stories, such as the one we find in today’s gospel. There are few more frightening experiences than to be in a small boat on a large body of water when a sudden squall comes up. The disciples are experienced fishermen, but they know how helpless they are in a turbulent sea.
The disciples do not understand how Jesus can be so calm at a time of mortal danger. We know, however, that in his baptism he has been empowered to deal with all kinds of chaotic situations. He has been sent by his heavenly Father to restore creation and to drive back the powers of darkness and chaos that have entered our lives through sin. He touches sick people and their health is restored; he confronts demons and they are banished; he brings peace and harmony where there had been fear and hopelessness.
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)—June 21, 2015
Liturgically, Ordinary Time is devoted to the preaching of the Kingdom of God. What do we need to know about it? Today’s Gospel gets us started.
Gospel (Read Mk 4:26-34)
St. Mark tells us that, when speaking to the crowds of people who clustered around to hear Him, Jesus described the Kingdom of God in parables. This is interesting, isn’t it? Parables need explaining (“to His own disciples He explained everything in private”). Why didn’t Jesus speak straightforwardly to the people who were curious about Him? The answer is partially revealed in what Jesus had to say in this reading.
The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
St. Margaret Mary’s parents, Claude Alacoque and Philiberte Lamyn, were distinguished less for temporal possessions than for their virtue, which gave them an honorable position. From early childhood Margaret showed intense love for the Blessed Sacrament, and preferred silence and prayer to childish amusements.
The death of her father and the injustice of a relative plunged the family in poverty and humiliation, after which more than ever Margaret found consolation in the Blessed Sacrament, and Christ made her sensible of His presence and protection. He usually appeared to her as the Crucified or the Ecce Homo. This did not surprise her, as she thought others had the same Divine assistance. At the age of 17 she briefly became attached to the world, but after a vision she repented.