Jesus got into a boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but Jesus was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” Then he got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?” (Mt 8:23-27)
Today’s gospel never ceases to challenge me. I always wonder, “Would I be freaking out in the boat next to the apostles?” Probably.
Consider the scene. Just prior to this storm, Jesus completely cleansed a leper (Mt 8:3), restored the centurion’s paralyzed daughter (Mt 8:13), healed Peter’s feverish mother-in-law (Mt 8:15), drove demons out of a possessed man (Mt 8:16) and “cured all the sick” (Mt 8:17). Those in the boat saw them, and that’s pretty powerful stuff! Wouldn’t you think that witnessing these dramatic and miraculous events would free them to totally place their lives into Jesus’ hands?
How many dramatic and miraculous events do we witness in our own lives, and do they liberate us to complete detachment from the earthly to embrace the heavenly? For most of us, try as we might, detachment and total trust remains elusive. At its core lies the fear of suffering – something Jesus faced head on, and something he calls us to face head on.
This fear goes all the way back to the garden. Adam’s fear of suffering and death weakened his faith to the point of believing that God could not be completely trusted. In spite of the fact that God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed, when push came to shove, they retreated to earthly self-reliance.
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Irenaeus, a Church Father and defender of the faith. He was also a martyr, losing his life in Lyons France in 202AD. Heroic virtue and faith marked his life. Something tells me he wouldn’t have been freaking out in the boat.
What is it that gives the martyrs the ability to stand firm in their faith in the face of suffering and death? Is it a singular grace? A gradual conversion? A decision somewhere along the way to proclaim the gospel no matter the cost? They have something that we “of little faith” (Mt 8:26) lack.
Psalm 103 tells us, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103:3). Both are commands to the soul. We command the soul, composed of the intellect and the will, to bless and to remember. The intellect gives us the ability to know the Truth and the will the ability to act on it. Both are places of decision, not emotion. Fear has no place there. In fact, Jesus tells us, “Fear is useless. What is needed is trust,” (Mk 5:36) – an act of the will.
The writer of Lamentations exhorts: “I will recall this as my reason to have hope: the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23). We recall those mercies with our intellect and with our will decide to stand in hope and not in fear – committed to the Truth and the promises of God.
So today, whatever waves crash into the boat, will to cast fear overboard. Recall his mercies. Hope in the Lord. “Cling to him, forsake him not, thus will your future be great.” (Sir 2:3) Jesus will rebuke the waves and calm the storm.
My Jesus, I trust in you! Anne
Heavenly Harmony, a song for the day: Peace be Still by Twila Paris is based on this scripture. The video is not particularly inspirational, but the song quiets the wind and the waves in my heart.