Imagine the disciples’ panic. There they are in the boat when a storm begins to rage. It’s so bad the boat is in danger of sinking, and they are full of fear. All seems lost…
Meanwhile Jesus, there in the boat with them, is fast asleep. Mark gives us the little detail that “his head [was] on the cushion” – it almost seems like a personal reminiscence. In their fear and panic, the disciples wake him up: “Master, do you not care? We are going down!”
When Jesus wakes, first of all he tells the wind and the sea to “Be calm!” Immediately the wind drops and the waves become calm. Then he rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. They are amazed. “Who can this be?” they ask each other.
For us, the message is clear: the boat represents the Church, and the disciples represent all believers, while the storm represents the difficulties and doubts the Church is facing. Only when they let go of fear and trust in him do the disciples recognise who Jesus truly is and his power to save them. Trust in Jesus can overcome all our fears.
Pray for the Pope and for all in authority in the Church. Ask the Holy Spirit to help them steer the Church with confidence and courage through the many storms it encounters.
Almost 33 years ago I began my career as a Redemptorist parish missioner. I gave missions throughout Ulster and north Leinster, and spoke from a lot of pulpits. I loved it. Churches were full, people were enthusiastic, the buzz was wonderful. In my sermons I lauded people for their centuries-long fidelity to the Church and encouraged them to do even better. While vocations and church attendance were beginning to fall, the future seemed bright. All appeared tranquil, at least on the surface. I had no idea of the violent storms that lay just ahead.
Then, suddenly, in the space of a few years, scandals and crises began to engulf the Church and it found itself in the eye of a terrible unrelenting storm, waves crashing against it from every side. Revelations of sex abuse and other scandals shook people to the core. Catholics began to abandon the practice of the faith, while an aggressive secularism found new strength.
Preaching parish missions became more challenging. I had to rewrite my sermons. I felt seasick.
But the storm had been brewing for a long time. The Church had big problems long before the abuse scandals came along. It was too priest-centred and clerical. It failed to make use of the talents of lay people. It didn’t encourage an adult faith. It allowed a whole generation of young people to be lost. It was too complacent, too casual, too smug, rather like the crew of the Titanic on its maiden voyage. And so it was left shocked and stricken by the storm when it broke, just like the apostles in today’s Gospel.
Jesus challenges us to face today’s storms head-on, to place our faith and trust in him, knowing that with him we will be safe, but without him all will be lost.
- As Christians, we know that Jesus is with us in the midst of the storms in which we find ourselves. But he is more than with us; he calls on us to face those storms.
- What might facing the storms mean today?
It means speaking truth to power in the Church and doing so in love. It means trusting totally in Jesus. It means letting go of fear. It means being ready to venture everything on Jesus’ word.
All kinds of storms can upset the equilibrium of our lives. Think about how you cope with major crises or setbacks. Do you deal with them constructively? Is there somebody you can turn to for support? Do you know anybody who might need your support right now?