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Lessons in a Storm
Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he 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?”
Opening Prayer: I know you are here with me right now, Lord. I know you are thinking of me and eager to give me the graces I need to live this day to the full. I know you are looking at me with a gaze of personal and determined love. You created me, Lord, and you redeemed me, and you accompany me each moment through your Holy Spirit. Please open my mind and my heart so that I can receive the light and strength of your grace through this time I spend with you in prayer.
- The Opportunities Storms Give Us: Why does Jesus permit storms in our lives? He didn’t have to let that storm come up as he and his Apostles were making their way across the sea. He shows clearly later on that he has power over the forces of nature at work in the storm. Why didn’t he exercise that power ahead of time, so that the storm wouldn’t even come up in the first place? At least one reason for permitting storms is that they give us opportunities to get to know Jesus better. At the end of this passage, after the crisis is over, St. Matthew tells us: “The men were amazed and said, ‘What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?’” Up to this point, Christ’s followers had witnessed amazing things: marvelous healings, dramatic exorcisms, and powerful preaching. This experience, however, shows them another side of Christ’s lordship: his power over the forces of nature. Their understanding, their knowledge of Jesus, still had room to grow. Maybe Jesus permitted this storm precisely so that through the experience, and through what he would show them in that experience, they would come to know him better. Maybe that’s why Jesus permits storms in our lives too. Somehow, being in a boat with Jesus as the storm rages on gives us a chance to know him more fully, and thus to love him more deeply.
- The Mystery of Faith: When his disciples wake him to share their panic with him, Jesus responds with a strange question: “Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” The disciples must have looked at him as if he were crazy. Or maybe they looked at each other questioningly, wondering if their Lord had lost his marbles. A good number of Christ’s followers were fishermen, familiar with boats and storms. And those expert navigators were fearing for their very lives in the midst of this storm: “Lord, save us!” they cried out, “We are perishing!” From a normal, human standpoint their situation was clearly and obviously dire. But Jesus doesn’t chastise them for failing to make an accurate human evaluation of the situation. He challenges them on a different level, the level of faith. All his teaching, all his miracles—they have had the single purpose of stirring up in his followers faith. We must encounter Jesus and believe in him, trust in him. Only then can his grace penetrate and transform us. This is because God is a real person, and so our relationship with him must be based on something besides mathematical computations. We must throw in our lot with him, believing and trusting, as we must do with any friend if we want the friendship to grow and flourish. Jesus has given us all many direct and indirect experiences of his goodness and his trustworthiness. How deeply have they nourished our faith? Our reaction during life’s storms can tell us.
- In the Same Boat: Jesus and his disciples were in the same boat. Jesus isn’t a Savior who redeems us from a distance. Jesus wants to be close to us. The whole Christian mystery broadcasts that amazing truth. In the Incarnation God himself becomes a human being and walks with us here in this fallen world. On the Cross, God himself absorbs into his own body and soul all the many types of suffering that we can’t seem to avoid in our journey through life. He travels the dusty roads of Galilee with his disciples. He speaks with Nicodemus around the fire at night. He touches lepers and weeps with those who mourn. In Jesus God shows us that he truly is with us. He is in our boat. Jesus is “Emmanuel”—God with us. The problem, from our perspective, is that we so easily forget this. The storms of life throw us into a panic. The noise of life drowns out the voice of truth. The distractions of life obstruct our view of the bigger picture as God has revealed it. When will I decide to live according to the truths that I believe? When will I decide to accept the truth of God’s unlimited, unconditional, unmitigated love for me and interest in my life? Will it be today?
Conversing with Christ: Thank you for coming into my boat, Lord. Thank you for caring enough about me to walk with me and protect and enlighten me. Today I just want to savor this gift of your presence. I am never alone. Even the storms that batter me are part of your plan for my life. Nothing can separate you from me, because you are all in for me. Please teach me, Lord, to live with a greater and greater awareness of your presence. Grant me the grace never to forget that even when the storms rage, you are with me in my boat, and with a mere word you can rebuke the winds and calm the sea. You are my Lord and my brother, and I never want to leave your side.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will put some kind of faith-reminder (crucifix, image, rosary, post-it with a verse) in a place where I tend to feel more acutely the stresses and anxieties of life (desk, car, kitchen). Whenever I see it I will make a little act of faith, telling Jesus that I do believe in him and asking him to increase my faith.
For Further Reflection: Navigating the Stormy Seas: A Do-It-Yourself Retreat.