In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Things are out of control! It seems that every sermon, every devotional and every thought that I as a priest am trying to prepare over the last few months is about survival or about fighting for control. The proverbial saying about the last straw no longer applies to this year as many of us feel overwhelmed, over burdened, tired and in pain. Apart from widespread sickness, social justice issues, polluted politics, exploitation of innocent children and unpredictable weather – apart from wide spread riots, panic, explosions and war – we ourselves are trying to maintain control of our own lives, our families, our health, our work and our faith. There are very few who are able to see and go through this storm without losing hope or control.
Today’s Gospel illustrates to us a storm like this. A storm that is relentless, uncontrollable and violent. A storm that can cause even the most faithful person to lose hope as they lose control of the situation. The only person we see that is at peace in the storm is Jesus,“But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion…” (v.38) There are 2 key things about this passage that strike me:
- How do we often understand this story
- Where is Jesus physically in the story
When we read the story of Jesus calming the storm, often times we reflect on how we as Christians must learn to control our lives through our faith in God. We read verse 40, where Christ asks “why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” and we understand that if we have faith in God then we will not fear the storms of our life and we can maintain control. However, there is something much deeper to understand here then merely our role in how to manage the storms of our life and that’s where the second point comes in: Where Jesus is physically in the story.
When we read the scriptures, when we open our Bibles and prayerfully look to see what Jesus is teaching – what are we paying attention to?
- What Jesus is doing
- What Jesus is saying
In fact, we have a saying W.W.J.D.? (what would Jesus do?) We rarely pay attention to his physical position or place in the story. However, each word in scripture has a deep layer of teaching and is there on purpose. When we read that Jesus is in the stern, what do we understand? Firstly what is the stern? The stern is the back of the boat and in the stern is the rudder – a flat vertical piece used for controlling and steering. So when we read that Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat – Christ is teaching us here that I am Peace and I am in control. Even when everything is falling apart, even when the storm is causing us to sink, Christ, God, the Church remains unchanged and unwavering – rather, peacefully, God remains in control. Therefore, what we are called to do is allow God to take control and guide us through the storm. Control does not mean we do not have free will; Control doesn’t mean we do not see chaos; Control does not mean life doesn’t fall apart; Control does not mean there will be no storms in life. Rather, when God is in control, even when we are suffering, we remain peaceful and we chose to trust God, armed with the knowledge that God is there. Our God is a compassionate God, not distant but with us in every way. As St. Paul says “Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead; he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and he will deliver us; on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (vv. 9-10)
My dears, what are we fighting? Are we fighting for control against the storm or are we fighting against God? Are we choosing to allow God to guide us through the storms we face in life? If we are choosing to allow God, if we trust Him, just as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer – “your will be done”, then what we must do, is be prayerful, remain hopeful and keep the Peace that God has given to us in our hearts, a peace not of this world as Christ teaches (John 14:27). This is done through our actions – when we don’t over react or panic when things fall apart. When we don’t change who we are but remain loving, forgiving and empathetic towards one another even in the face of difficuties. This is done through our prayer life – when we stop and take a moment each day to thank God for all his blessings. So that when we do face adversity, we will find comfort in the knowledge and remembrance of all of God’s blessings and we will then use that comfort to help comfort others, as St. Paul teaches.
My dears, this year is merely a year with several storms – personal and corporeal. Each day, is full of blessings and peace which we will begin to realize when we freely choose to allow God to control and guide us through the storms. Let us remain faithful, and vigilant to how we behave and how we believe when the storms come. Let us remain prayerful and in the Lord’s peace and may the grace of the Holy Spirit help us and be with us everyday Amen!