Today’s Gospel tells of a sea voyage that was made a long time ago… a long way off…
The location was a small body of water called the Sea of Galilee, which most of us have never seen and probably never will. We are told of a storm, of waves washing across a boat, whose passengers were in terror of their lives. They thought they were going to drown and in the midst of all these life-threatening events, Jesus was asleep.
This is, to say the least, an unusual story. Historically and literally it could hardly be more remote from our everyday life. But, if we read it psychologically it becomes close to home. I am sure that most of us at some time in our life have felt trapped in adverse circumstances from which there appeared no escape. In those time it often seemed that the Lord was of no help. He was absent or asleep or indifferent to our need. Many of us at some time or another have wondered if God even knows what is happening to us, if He knows, if He cares.
The people in the story were men of faith, they had left everything in order to follow Jesus. He had become the focus of their highest hopes and dreams. They believed in Him more than they believed in anyone or anything else. But here we see them at a time when their faith was badly shaken. They looked at that sleeping figure in the bow of the boat and they might have wondered if He was worthy of their trust.
After all, the voyage had been His idea. He was the One who said, let us cross over to the other side. Now they were in danger and He sleeps. They cry out- Teacher, doesn’t it matter to You that we are going to drown?
We see the Disciples at their most human, we catch them in the act of being themselves. They were up against something that was more than they could handle. Jesus had taught them that at times like that they could depend on Him, He would always be there, He would never let them down.
That was a wonderful promise, they wanted to believe it, but at this moment it did not seem to be working. He was with them, but asleep. Their faith was shaking like a leaf in a wind storm, they were frightened out of their minds.
Haven’t many of us been in that same boat? Up against something that seems beyond our strength? You have tried to pray, but nothing has changed and so your prayer is reduced to a cry of desperation.
Lord, don’t you care?
What are we to do in times such at that, at times when our faith is shaken? Perhaps, we need to look at our faith, sometimes our faith is shaken because it is invalid, not true to life. If we think of faith in God as a protective shield against tragedy, it is sure to let you down. Some people think that their faith will save them from life’s storms, or, at least, get them out of the way.
That is a very understandable and human feeling. I wish I could tell you that if you have faith everything is going to turn out all right. The cancer will disappear, you child is going to get off drugs and come home… all this will happen if you just believe in God.
That is just not true. If it were true, faith in God would really not be faith at all. It would be a business transaction motivated by self-interest. The heroes of our faith, the great saints, have never seen faith as a way to win special treatment. They chose a life of faith and often paid a bitter price because they were faithful.
Crisis and tragedy in life make some people lose their faith, and others to use their faith. Like a physical muscle when faith is used it becomes stronger. Faith cannot be merely a matter of mind and memory. The Creed that we recite does summarize much of what we believe…Maker of heaven and earth, a God Man crucified and risen, a Spirit, and the Giver of life. But to come alive, your creed, your faith must move beyond brain and lips. Faith is your whole person given to God. Living faith is an act of love.
You know we are already people of great faith, we see a white wafer and we say- Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. You see a bloody body of a condemned criminal on a cross and you say with the centurion on Calvary, this is the Son of God. You hear stories about angels, apostles, mysteries and miracles, prodigals and prostitutes, a crib and a cross and you respond- this is the word of the Lord.
The disciples in our story had very little faith left, the storm had pounded most of it out of them. But what little they had they used and asked, Teacher, doesn’t it matter to You that we are going to drown? That was a prayer of sorts, admittedly, it was far from ideal. But it was the best they could do at the moment and Christ honored it. We are told the wind fell off and everything became calm.
That can happen in our hearts even though it may not happen in our world. This must surely be the true message of our reading. Mark was telling a hurting and persecuted Church that Christ was with them. At times He seemed to be asleep, but still He was there and in His own time and own way He would speak peace to their tortured souls.
The message remains true today. Hold on to your shaking faith, use it at every opportunity, however weak and fragile it may seem. Do the best you can with what you have and leave the rest to Christ.
Never forget He is still in the boat with us.