“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
Last Sunday, we learnt that the season of ordinary time is a season of growth. In today’s readings, we get to learn more about how we are to overcome challenges and obstacles to achieving spiritual growth. Let us now consider the lessons contained in today’s readings:
1. “On that day, when EVENING had come . . .”
Why do fishermen prefer to go and catch fish at night? It is a moment of calmness, peace and quiet. In the same way, Satan tempts us the most when things are calm with us; when you have just passed an exam, when you have just received an answer to your prayer, when you suddenly hit jackpot in business etc., These are evening moments in the life of Christians, moments when the desire to pray is no longer there, moments when we crave relaxation. Evening moments are times when we sleep spiritually.
2. Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us GO ACROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE…”
As much as evening is a time for relaxation and heavy temptations, evening is also the time that God prefers to lift a soul to a higher spiritual level. Consider the fact that Jesus often spent whole nights in prayer. (Cf. Luke 6:12). What do you do in the evening when the atmosphere is calm and quiet? Don’t be like the disciples of Jesus who were dozing off when he wanted them to watch and pray. (Cf. Matthew 26:40-46)
Coming back to our Gospel passage today, Jesus knew it was evening already and there would a serious storm that night but He asked his disciples to enter the boat and cross to the other side. Jesus wanted to use the experience to strengthen their faith. You wonder, why does God allow calamity in our lives? Simple answer: That through our trials, we may learn not to trust in ourselves but in the power of God.
What is this other side? Is it just another geographical location? No. The other side here represents a deeper faith and higher level of commitment with God. There are certain experiences you face that change you, certain things you go through that make you convinced that truly, God exists.
The other side is what St. Paul speaks of when he says in today’s second reading: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come.” You have to go to the other side to become a new creation. For some, this might be a near-death experience, a miracle least expected, or an event that brought them to total conversion such as that of St. Paul on his way to Damascus. He had gone there as Saul to persecute Christians but he left as Paul the evangelizer spreading the Christian faith.
3. “And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat…”
There is nothing more frightening to sailors and fishermen than a storm while at sea. The truth is that as the disciples faced a great storm that night, we all face storms in our lives; situations and events which threaten our entire lives and bring us to the point of complete helplessness, confusion, and panic.
Certain things just happen and we are shocked, thrown off balance, and demoralized. For instance, nothing prepared Job for the storm he faced. In one day, he lost everything he owned including his children and before you know it, he was afflicted with sickness in his own skin. Coincidentally, our first reading today is taken from the book of Job where we hear God responding to Job after all his questionings.
One thing we must know is that whether our storms are physical or spiritual, God would never allow them to come to us unless it is ultimately for our good. God always has a plan. I like the words of St. Paul to the Romans in chapter 8 verse 28 which states: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
4. “But Jesus was asleep on the cushion…”
Storms do not end because we pray. Storms only come to an end when they have achieved their purpose. Storms come to an end when we have learned our lesson. Unless the storm has achieved its purpose, it always seems as if our prayers are in vain. It seems as if God is sleeping. It seems as if God does not care, as if God is silent.
Mark tells us that Jesus was asleep on the cushion. How did Jesus manage to sleep despite the running up and down and the loud shouting of the disciples who were trying to rescue their boat from capsizing? Remember, it was because of the storm that Jesus asked his disciples to enter that boat that night. Jesus wanted to teach them a lesson; to show them what to do and how to react in a storm. What was this lesson? Fear Not.
Dear friends, I have good news for you. God never sleeps. God will never turn a blind eye to your situation. God sees. God knows. God hears. God can feel what you are going through. He may appear silent but He perfectly knows what He is doing. He has put you in a tunnel that is dark because He knows it will take you somewhere where you will see the light again. As the Psalmist says: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
5. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”
This question that Jesus asked his disciples is one that we must sincerely ask ourselves today. “Why am I afraid?” “Where is my faith?” Fear is the opposite of Faith. When there is fear, it means there is no faith and when faith is present, fear vanishes. As we have noted above, Jesus wanted to use this experience to strengthen the faith of the disciples – to show them that:
One: He is God; that all power belongs to Him (Cf. Matthew 28:18). By speaking to the storm, Jesus reminded them of God the Father who spoke the world into creation and it obeyed. Jesus used this experience to open the eyes of his disciples to His Divinity as He did with Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration. The disciples got the message when they asked themselves: “Who is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?”
Two: When we Have Jesus in the same boat with us, we should not be Afraid. Fear is something natural to us. It is an impulse built into our psyche. Nevertheless, in moments of fear, the question we should be asking ourselves is: “Is Jesus in the same boat with me?” That is, “am I walking in the light of Christ?” The disciples should have known that there was no way the boat would sink since Jesus was there and this knowledge should have calmed their nerves.
Where Jesus is present, nothing spoils but when we are not on the same boat with Jesus, when we are walking in sin and disobeying His commands, then we are just on our own! The couple at Cana needed not be afraid because they were wise enough to invite Jesus and his mother to their wedding. (Cf. John 2:1-11).
When you are about to take any decision, always ask yourself if Jesus is part of it. Is Jesus a captain in my ship or just an afterthought? Is Jesus the special guest of honour in this occasion I am planning? These are very important questions to ask so that if later on, challenges and storms break-in, your consolation would be to just know that Jesus is there.
Finally, our psalmist this morning says: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His mercies endures forever.” Brothers and sisters, let us learn to give thanks to God always. Even when things are not working, God’s mercies never cease. God never sleeps.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, increase my trust in you, strengthen my faith when storms come my way and help me to get through my dark moments knowing that you are always there with me. Amen.
Bible Study: Job 38:1,8-11, Psalm 107, 2nd Corinthians 5:14-17, Mark 4:35-41).