Fr. Paul's Homily
We have all been there. Suddenly we are in the midst of a torrential downpour, perhaps on the Interstate. We quickly move the windshield wipers onto “High” but that doesn’t seem to touch the amount of rain that is falling. We lean forward onto the steering wheel, reducing our speed at the same time. Each fiber of our being is focused upon the road, desperately trying to see the tail lights of the vehicle in front of us. At times, we can see nothing, and this feeling of panic wells up inside of us. We are intensely focused, scared and uncertain what to do next!
Can we picture the scene? I certainly can! It is this intensity, this fear that is griping the disciples as they face a huge storm that has descended upon the Sea of Galilee. Let’s talk about how this story is a lesson for the storms of life.
The gospel occurs near the end of a day when Jesus has been teaching the crowds through parables. For reasons that are not clear, Jesus says, “Let’s cross over to the other shore”…which would have been the eastern shore, the pagan territory. Now most of the time the Sea of Galilee is the picture of calmness and beauty, but massive storms can come out of the west, funneled through a western valley, onto the Sea. Fisherman can be caught off guard and lives can be loss, even with the most experienced of sailors. Thus, the apostles find themselves, in the middle of the lake, with a hurricane type storm upon them. The boat is being swamped and they are panicking. If we can remember the fear when driving in the intense downpour, then we are able to sense a small part of the apostle’s fear.
Now what is most strange about this story is that Jesus is napping through all of it! In the turmoil and the rain, Jesus has somehow found a dry spot and is snoring away!! The apostles awaken him, and with fear and disdain in their voices, they say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
We have heard words like this and perhaps we have spoken them. An angry teenager calls out to his/her parents, “You don’t care about me.” Or, maybe we turn to God Himself, and cry out with hurt and anger, “Why don’t you care about me?” These are feelings that are very real and they often arise during times of panic and fear. Our very question is filled with doubt, just as the apostle’s question.
What does Jesus do in our gospel? He stands up, rebukes the storm which immediately calms down and he challenges the apostles on their faith. They say, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” This is amazing! Their doubt-filled question leads to a wondrous miracle!
So, what might this reading have to say to us today, in 2015? First, we have to realize that storms will happen and we have to accept that reality. Dr. M. Scott Peck begins his best-selling book, THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, with three words: "Life is difficult." We can be the best Catholic in the world, yet storms will still come our way. They might be storms involving family members, friends, nations; the storms could include cancer, mental illness or transplants; the storms could be spiritual, emotional or physical.
What is striking in the gospel is that this storm happens where many of the apostles were most comfortable…in a boat on this particular lake. Remember a sizeable number of the apostles are fishermen on this lake. The Sea of Galilee was not huge, nine miles wide and 14 miles long, so they would have known it well. So here, in their own back yard, they are hit with a storm that puts them in total panic!
So, often the storm can occur so close to home. All is well until your wife says, “I found a lump,” and it all changes. You go into work, where you have been for 15 years, and at the end of the day, the boss calls you in and says, “We have to make some cuts,” and it all changes. Often the storms are very close to home, even in our own back yards.
In our first reading from the Book of Job, we hear of this very good man. Job’s storm is overwhelming with the loss of all his children, all his possessions and his health, and he knows he does not deserve this…and he doesn’t! Job asked God over and over, “Why?” The story of Job is the classic example of suffering that is not deserved. Storms and suffering occur in life, both to the just and the unjust.
The second lesson we can learn is that somewhere in the storm God will become known. In the Gospel, Jesus does so much more than the apostles were asking! They wanted a little concern that the boat was sinking but Jesus does so much more by calming the storm! He offered a solution that the apostles didn’t even know was on the table!
Storms are so absorbing, taking all our strength and effort. If a person is sitting beside the hospital bed of a sick child, there is little else that matters. Thus, it is sometimes very difficult to see and recognize God’s hand being extended to us. It is later that we realize where God truly was. Yet, God’s Presence is often in the storm, if we look.
Recently a friend in the parish was not able to make a trip because of an accident. During the week when he was to be gone, a close relative died suddenly. He was able to spend quality time with her and the family before the death, and be present during the grieving time, only because he was unable to go on the trip. God reaches out his hand.
A father is laid off from a job that required many hours of work each week. While the loss of income is frightening, the father is allowed quality time with his small children and he realizes how much he has been missing. God reaches out his hand. Somewhere, in every storm, God will make himself known…we need to pay attention.
Remember, as in our Gospel, God’s reaching out to us might come in a form different than what we had requested. In the Book of Job, Job wants to know why he has had to suffer so much. God’s response does not answer Job’s question, rather God speaks over and over about the grandeur, mystery and power of God, which goes way beyond Job’s ability to understand. Job realizes that God’s Mystery and Power will always be beyond our understanding. Job is satisfied simply because God has made his presence known and spoken to him. Job did not receive an answer to his question; he received God himself!
Sometimes we want a cure, but what we find is profound peace. Sometimes we want a particular job, but what we find is a better balance of work and home. Sometimes we pray for the calming of the storm and what we receive is a new source of support and love.
So, the next time we are in the middle of much turmoil, and the storm is all around us, realize that God’s hand is there. Somewhere, somehow, perhaps in the most unexpected way, God is reaching out to us. Try to find God; look for his hand reaching out to us; know that he is with us always!