Unlike the passages of the last two weeks, this Sunday’s passage is, in one sense, a single story and we must read it as a whole. But in another sense, it tells two stories – one of Jesus and one of the apostles. Each has its movement that we can enter into, and there is a striking contrast between the attitudes shown in each.
As you meditate, observe how you are situating yourself in relation to the passage: which of the two stories are you identifying with, the one of Jesus or the one of the apostles? Is it your personal story or the story of someone who has touched your life? Does Jesus remind you of some person or of God himself? Is this something that is happening now or something that has happened in the past?
Answering these questions will help you enter into the story.
Lord, humanity finds itself in a bad way:
• recurrent famines in parts of Africa together and surplus food in Europe;
• an unending spiral of violence in the Middle East;
• no way out of poverty and unemployment in every country;
• the constant threat of nuclear disaster and terrorism.
The waves are breaking into our boat so that it is almost swamped
and we have the impression that we are going down.
All this time the values of Jesus are there within our reach
– compassion, trust, love of enemies, honesty –
but we have left them in the back of the boat, unused.
We pray that we may turn to these values in this moment of need,
that like the apostles we may discover with awe
that these values can command the winds and the seas.
Lord, we thank you for the great people of faith we have known,
An uncle or aunt, a little tradesman in the village,
The granny of the community, the kind of person who could sleep
Comfortably because they trust in you.
How often we have been condescending towards them,
Taking charge of them as the apostles took chage of Jedsus,
And they went along with us.
Then it began to blow a gale, and we felt we were going down,
We turned to them and experienced their power.
Lord, modern people have confidence in brute force;
We look on trust as weak and ineffectual.
We thank you that you sent us someone like Gandhi.
He showed the world that trust is a mighty power,
One that could rebuke the wind and the sea, and say to them,
Quiet now! Be calm!” and the whole world was in awe, saying,
“Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.”
Lord, we who are leaders in the church, we talk easily about faith.
But every one in a while you say to us,
“Let us cross over to the other side” and make us leave the crowd behind us
– inviting us to make a retreat;
– letting us experience failure or infidelity.
Then, on the open sea, without our usual supports,
We experience how frail we are, how easily we could go down.
That is a moment of grace for us as we realize
That we have been living on the surface of ourselves,
Trusting in success and popularity,
And deep within ourselves, Jesus was asleep.
Now with him awake we have the resources
To calm the winds and the sea.
Lord, our rulers often act
as if the destiny of the country is in their hands.
Teach them that Jesus is in the little people
Forgotten in the back of the boat
And if we turn to them we will discover to our surprise
That they have the resources to calm the storm
And we will get safely to the other side.
Introduction to the Celebration
Each Sunday we gather together as the church for many reasons. One of the basic reasons is to give thanks to God for the wonder of the creation. We live in a creation that is the Father’s gift; it has come into existence through his Son, Jesus our Lord, for it is through him all things were made, and over the creation hovers the Holy Spirit, the giver of life, imparting life to it. And, in today’s gospel we shall hear a story that reminds us that Jesus, the Word made flesh, is Lord of all creation. So today we have to be thankful.
But we often act as if the creation is not God’s gift but is ‘just there’ for us to use as we like; we often think that how we behave in the creation is not important to God; we often forget that wonder and praise is needed if we are to understand the uriiverse. So today, remembering that the Christ is the Lord of all creation, we have also to be sorry for our carelessness.
1. The miracle of Jesus stilling the sea has been an embarrassment to many western Christians since the late-eighteenth century. All miracles became simply frauds for the simple, but while (1) ‘healing miracles’ could be tolerated as somehow linked to religion as personal, or psychological, phenomena, and (2) ‘feeding miracles’ could be passed over as having a moral to teach us — they could be reduced to Jesus preaching famine relief and seeking to develop social awareness among his followers, that third group, the ‘nature miracles’ (and this was seen as the worst example of the type) were seen as wholly the product of a naïve, superstitious and gullible age. Miracles like that in today’s gospel were, for liberals, to be quietly forgotten as belonging to the silly end of religion. At the other extreme were the fundamentalists, where proving the occurrence of an actual event two thousand years ago became the focus of attention: truth was simply ‘did it happen?’
2. The truth of the gospel lies in that it can lead us towards God, a mysterious leading that involves a fuller understanding of God’s universe, a fuller engagement as human beings within the universe, and towards a fuller life in union with God. So does this story help us? Hearing this story should help us to reflect in three distinct ways on our identity and way of life as the community of Jesus.
3. First, we have a tendency to be so busy working in the creation that we forget its creator. Moreover, we hear so often that Jesus is a ‘moral leader’ that we forget that while non- Christians might see him as just one more teacher, for us, his people, he is the Son of God living among us, he is the Word through whom ‘all things were made’. We not only greet him as a teacher and guide, but we greet him as the Lord of all creation. It is because Jesus is the Word made flesh, and, as we profess in the creed, it is in him that all things came into being, that we Christians cannot be indifferent to any abuses or destruction of the environment.
4. Second, we move through life as Christians, not just a bunch of individuals, but as a community that is cared for by the Lord. The disciples in the boat calling on the Lord remind us that we are a community who call upon the Lord to help us in our distress. When we call out Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, we are engaging in the same activity as the disciples in the boat who called on him when they were frightened.
5. Third, because we are disciples of the Christ, the Lord of the creation, we are called to acknowledge our human duty to be stewards of creation. We are supposed to be the people who have a very clear and precise appreciation of the value and beauty of the creation. This means that today we should be in the forefront of reminding people of the importance of caring for the earth.
6. When we hear this gospel as if it were a ‘news item’, we ask questions about whether we think something happened long ago on a little lake in Palestine; when we as a community of disciples hear this with our hearts and our minds, we recall:
• who we are as a people;
• what we profess about Jesus;
• what we must do as inhabitants of the planet.
The dramatic story of the storm at sea brings into focus in a very vivid manner the challenge of being in a relationship of faith with Jesus. He has just finished teaching them about the kingdom and its presence when he suggests that they cross to the other side.
This is a dangerous suggestion for he is asking them, as it grows dark, to journey into the unknown, the pagan or Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee. Soon they find themselves in the midst of a storm with the waves swamping their small boat and their master asleep, apparently unconcerned. Their question to him says it all: ‘Do you not care?’ This plea gathers up the prayers of many who feel they are drowning in what can be a harsh and cruel world. Jesus hears their cry and, like God in the reading from Job, manifests his power by bringing calm into chaos. However, he also challenges them with a question that equals theirs for its relevance: ‘Have you still no faith?’ They have already seen him heal the sick, teach with authority and perform exorcisms, but something is missing as regards their attachment to him; a deep trust that indeed he does care.
The storm at sea offers the perfect metaphor for expressing our doubts about faith. The power of nature can leave us feeling utterly insignificant; we are left powerless and totally at the mercy of the elements. So too life can appear incredibly difficult because of illness, bereavement, broken relationships and shattered dreams. At times, the image of sailing in a small boat, on a dark night, into the eye of a storm, perfectly describes how we are. At such times Jesus invites us to trust and it is only by doing it that we learn how.
From the CONNECTIONS:
The Sea of Galilee is really a land-locked lake 600 feet below sea level. Ravines in the hills and mountains surrounding the Galilee act as natural wind tunnels. In the evening, as the warm air of the day rises above the water, cool air rushes in through the ravines. The effect is amazing: the tranquil lake is whipped into a fury of white-capped six-foot waves. In the midst of this terrorizing experience, Jesus calms both the sea and his disciples' fear.
The evangelist is recounting this story to a terrified and persecuted community. Today's Gospel is intended to reassure them of the Risen Christ's constant presence in the storms they struggle through for the sake of their faith in his reign to come.
HOMILY NOTES:The wisdom and grace of the “awakened” Jesus is present to us throughout the journeys of our lives to “calm” the adversities and tragedies that can either help us grow in understanding life or consume us in despair and hopelessness.
In our stormy whirlwind lives, we need to make time for peace, for stillness, for quiet in order to hear the voice of God within us.
The grace of the Risen Christ enables us to discern the presence of God amid the roar of anger and mistrust and to see the light of God in the darkness of selflessness and prejudice.
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1) “No! Jesus who calmed the storm will save me!”
Mississippi River was flooding its banks, and the waters were rising swiftly around Dorothy's house. The waters had gotten to the level of the front porch where Dorothy was standing when a man in a rowboat came by and called to Dorothy, "Hop in and I'll take you to high ground." Dorothy replied, "No, Jesus who calmed the storm in the sea will save me from flood waters!" The river continued to rise to the second story windows and Dorothy, looking out, saw a powerboat come up. The man in the powerboat called to Dorothy, "Hop in and I'll take you to high ground." Dorothy replied, "No, my Jesus will save me!" The river had now risen to the roof of the house. Dorothy was sitting on the ridge at the top of the house with the waters swirling around his feet. She saw a helicopter fly over, and the people inside yelled over a bull horn, "Grab the rope and climb in, and we'll take you to high ground." Dorothy replied, "No, Jesus will save me!" The river continued to rise. Finally the floodwaters engulfed the house and Dorothy was drowned. The next thing Dorothy knew, she was standing before Jesus. In anger, she asked Jesus, "I put my trust in you. Why have you forsaken me?" And to her Jesus replied, "What do you want from me? I sent you a rowboat, a powerboat, and a helicopter!" (http://www.inspiration.com). Today’s gospel tells us that we have to act promptly, trusting in the power of Jesus and seeking his help as the apostles did.
2) Edmund Fitzgerald buried in the
In 1976, the songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recorded a haunting ballad in honor of, and as a tribute to, a ship and its crew members who lost their lives. He called it “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” The Edmund Fitzgerald was a giant ore-freighter, 729 feet in length. It was the largest carrier on the
3) “The Karate Kid:”
One of my favorite movies is The Karate Kid. It is about a teenager who feels alone and unprotected in the hostile environment of his school and community. He is scared - unable to defend himself against the hoodlums of his neighborhood. It happens that the lad, whose name is Daniel, meets an old man, Mr. Meogi, who has a black belt in Karate. The old man agrees that he will teach him what he knows so that Daniel can protect himself. On the first day of his lessons the old man asks Daniel to wax and polish several old cars that he owns - wax on - wax off. All day the lad labors to follow these instructions - Wax on - Wax off. On the second day the old man asks the boy to paint his fence -- paint up - paint down. Again it takes all day. On the third day the master asked him to sand the wooden floor of his verandah - in a circular fashion - and again it takes all day. At the end of the third day the boy is very angry – “I've done all this work for you,” he says, “and you still haven't taught me anything to defend myself.” At this point the master tells Daniel to stand in front of him and do the motion for wax on - wax off. As he does this, the master tries to hit him – but his blows are deflected by the boy’s arms. The boy's work for Mr. Meogi - his obedience - has made him ready for his first lesson in how to face danger. It has prepared him for the lessons, and the dangers, to follow. In the course of our lives there are many things that arise and frighten us. There are giants who are hostile to us and all that we hold dear. There are storms that threaten to overwhelm us. Today’s gospel about Jesus’ calming the storm reminds us that a firm conviction of the living presence of Jesus in our lives and a dynamic relationship with him by prayer – listening to him and talking to him – will save us from unexpected storms of our lives. (Rev. Richard Fairchild).
4) The eagle and the storm:
Do you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm. When the storms of life come upon us - and all of us will experience them -- we can rise above them by setting our minds and our belief on God. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God's power to lift us above them. God enables us to ride the winds of the storm that bring sickness, tragedy, failure and disappointment into our lives. We can soar above the storm. We need to remember that it is not the burdens of life that weigh us down, but how we handle them. The Bible says, "Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles" Isaiah 40:31.
5) “Who is this man?Even the winds and the sea obey him! Four women were sitting discussing their sons. The first proudly stated that her son was a bishop, so when he enters a room, people address him as "Your Excellency."
The second, not to be outdone, said that her son is an archbishop, so when he enters the room, people address him as "Your Grace."
The fourth woman said: "Well my son is 7 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 430 pounds, and when he walks into a room people say: "My God!"
6) The hurricane prayer:
A hurricane had struck. People were huddled together in a church building for safety. A preacher was praying with great oratorical effects in the midst of this violent storm, crying out "Send us the Spirit of the children of
, the children of Moses, the children of the Promised land." At this, an old man with less oratory but more directness prayed, "Lord, don’t send nobody. Come yourself. This ain’t no time for children.” Israel
7) He trusted his wife:
A man and his wife were sitting in the living room watching the TV and he said to her, “Honey, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.” His wife got up, unplugged the TV and threw out all of his beer.
1) Accommodate Jesus in the boat of your life: All of us making a journey across the sea of time to the shore of eternity. Hence it is natural that, occasionally, we all experience different types of violent storms in our lives: physical storms, emotional storms, and spiritual storms. We face storms of sorrow, doubt, anxiety, worry, temptation and passion. The storms we encounter in life are often what make us or break us. These storms can either bring us closer to God and one another or alienate us from God and others. But only Jesus can still these storms. Jesus can give us real peace in the storm of sorrow. When we are totally depressed with sorrow Jesus assures us of the glory of the life to come. Jesus consoles us at the loss of our dear ones with the assurance of eternal life for them in the heavenly home of God the Father where we, too, will live one day. When the storms of doubt seek to uproot the very foundations of our faith, Jesus is there to still that storm, revealing to us his divinity and the authority behind the words of the Holy Scripture. Jesus gives us peace in a tempest of doubt, tension and uncertainty, provided we humbly submit to Jesus' guidance. He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety and worry about ourselves, about the unknown future and about those we love. Jesus calms the storms of passion in people who have hot hearts and blazing tempers.