|"Storm on the Sea of Galilee" by Brother Claude|
Today's Gospel reading is magnificent. One of my absolute favorites because of what it says about Jesus Christ, what it says about nature, and what it can say about us. First, the passage as a whole~ then in parts as I'll offer some things to consider verse by verse...
Mark 4:35-41 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)Jesus Stills a Storm
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?
The reading with reflections:
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
What does it mean for us to "go across to the other side?" We begin where we are and go with Our Lord to where He would desire to take us. It appears simple enough but as I often like to remember the disciples were common men and not all too different from ourselves. To set out at night, as I imagine, would be more potentially dangerous and perhaps completely ill advised. Do we often hope to go with Jesus "to the other side?" Or do we deem it more favorable to follow Jesus by staying right where we are? Is it our preference to follow Jesus Christ, "our way?" This isn't possible. Let us pray and ask our Lord for the grace to follow Him HIS way.
36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them, just as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him.
"And leaving the crowd..." Part of what it means to follow Our Lord is to leave the crowd behind. To use other people as our ultimate point of reference of what, "should be" or for how things, "seem best" is another snare that too easily entraps us. I was once told by a very wise priest, "If you desire to truly serve and love others don't look at them~ rather~ look through them and to the face of God." To be, "in the world but not of it" is absolutely essential to what it means to show our ultimate allegiance to God. After all when we serve others we serve Our Lord. As in Matthew 25 Jesus taught:
"Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."Therefore, by all means, don't "leave the crowd" forever. Yet do not ever be entirely given to the crowd in your heart. You are God's possession...children of the Most High. They took Him and yet wasn't it He who was taking them? Do we not need to yield our will entirely, in other words, say "YES" every day? Do we accept Him as He is or as we imagine Him to be? We must follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ and no longer the false "gospel of our own making."
37 And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
And, as we can certainly expect, difficulties and hardships will follow if we allow Jesus Christ, "in our boat." Do we then choose to kick Him out of our boat? Yes, often, but how do we do this? We ask Jesus to leave us each time we choose to rely on our own strength and abilities apart from Him...apart from His grace. Do we need Jesus? Do we not more often act as if we've got things figured out pretty well on our own? The disciples, some of them, were commercial fishermen...they knew boats...they knew waves...they knew the dangers of wind. Yet it would seem Jesus was the only one not apprised of the dangers. Jesus said:
"...apart from me you can do nothing"
One might reasonably argue that the disciples on this day, (as well as many other days), would have been, "better off" if they weren't hanging out with this rabble rousing rabbi. They would surely have been safer, more settled, more comfortable to be sure! Yet, they would not be living, "...life in abundance..." as Jesus offers. He also offers us an abundant life...do you want this? Either way you face troubles, hardship, sickness and death in this life...there are no detours around the cross...would you not rather be with the author of life on the "front lines" than be without His abundant life on the "sidelines?" We often settle for a life of dull mediocrity because we are not willing to, "follow Him wherever He goes."
38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”
How many times a month have you thought this? "Lord, this bad situation has arisen for me..." or "Lord, this terrible situation has befallen so and so...Do you not care?" Do you believe Our Lord cares? Are you not somehow secretly holding on to the belief that God wishes you more harm than good? Do you not recognize that this belief is from the very pit of the darkness of hell? The very foundation of evil is the belief that God is not good but wishes us harm and not good. This was the root of the sin of Adam and Eve. They believed that God was "holding out on them" and didn't wish for them to have the "wisdom" God owed to them. It is as if we believe that God isn't giving us what is best in our lives, right? Couldn't He be doing a better job for me? Why doesn't He always pull through with my plans and keep insisting on His own? Faith, conversely, says, "My Lord and my God...I choose to trust You...though I don't fully understand Your ways nor Your plans." Consider for a moment some essential words of St. Paul from Chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans:
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.
Do you believe this? Search yourself for a moment. I would suggest that this verse, Romans 8:28 sums up the very essence of loving trust and faith in Our Lord. "He was in the stern, asleep..." The alternative to, "Lord, do you not care if we perish?" could be, "Lord, all that I am is for all that You are."
39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
A very difficult aspect of our existence is that we don't see the whole picture. That which at one time terrified the disciples would most certainly serve as "future fodder for their faith." Can we not all look back on times in our lives when Our Lord "carried us" through our difficulties? After a time of tumult has He not always offered moments of "...great calm?" It is through difficulties that our eyes are cleared, often by tears, to see the beauty of God in all things. This is a call for us to recognize, in the midst of our difficulty and suffering, Our Lord will bring a better day and always a better time...whether it be in this life or the next~ Our Lord is ever faithful!
40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”
This tells us, though we will experience fear in this life~ and often lack faith...we need not be afraid and it makes no "earthly sense" and especially makes no "eternal sense" to be afraid of anything IF we adhere ourselves to God. We only need ask Our Lord to grant us the grace to love Him above all else and to follow Him "wherever He goes" and He will be faithful and will certainly see it through.
41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?
Recognize the Lord in all things and do no be tempted to say, "Who then is this?" We will encounter times of darkness and times of light. Either way, whether in life or in death, Our Lord is faithful and always looking out for our best. Consider the following, Psalm 91, which communicates all of the above far better than I could ever hope to communicate. I just encourage you, now, seek the Lord while He can be found!
Psalm 91 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
Assurance of God’s Protection
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
2 will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
4 he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge,
the Most High your habitation,
10 no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.