Jesus calms the storm in today’s Gospel. A passage that we are all familiar with since childhood; this is one of those stories that is told over and over again and stands out among many others. It resonates with us during times of suffering and I think that it hits home with us especially during these times of economic hardship and financial distress. Many of us feel the same way that the Apostles did and want to shout to God the way they do in the passage, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Of course Christ cares! That is the reason for this story. The problem is that it is often difficult to see beyond our own suffering. In the First Reading, Job had been crying out to God for help and an answer to his own suffering, just as the Apostles did. It is in the storm itself that Job gets his answer. God does not explain himself to Job. God does not apologize for the sufferings that Job endured. Up until this point, it seems to Job that God is asleep, the same way that Christ was sleeping in the boat with the Apostles. Then the answer comes.
Two different things happen in each of the readings, but both contain the same answer. God’s presence is the answer to the problem of suffering. God asks Job where he was during the creation of the earth, where he was when the seas were formed and if they would obey him. Christ asks his Apostles where their faith is. God is present, why do they fear? At any point, God can command the sea and the wind to subside. At any point, God can alleviate Job’s suffering. Why doesn’t He? Because God is found in a unique way in suffering.
St. Francis of Assisi says that perfect joy is found only in the Cross. Only through participating in the Cross can we experience the Resurrection. For Francis, the Cross is where we find Christ, and therefore perfect joy is found in suffering well for the love of God. This is not something people want to hear, including myself. We tend to run from suffering, but Francis embraced it so that he may unite himself to God. He does this by first finding God in suffering, and then by loving God and others as best he could while suffering. In this way he more perfectly imitates Christ Crucified. St. Paul writes about this in today’s Epistle. He says that in dying and rising with Christ in baptism, we become new creatures capable of knowing God in a new way. That new way is the gift of faith. It is in trusting God during times of suffering that we come closer to Him. As the Scriptures say, “The Lord is near to the broken hearted”. There is a mystery of suffering that unites us to Christ in a special way.
God is present to us in our sufferings and is there with us through our storms. When the waves climb high and we feel like we are about to drown, we call out to Him, we wake Him. Many of us have had the experience of saying to God like the Apostles did, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” Christ has answered many of us with those same words from Scripture, “Peace, be still. Where is your faith?” Jesus does care. When we let the storms in our lives overwhelm us, it is a temptation to despair of the goodness of God. That is what both Job and the Apostles were tempted with: despairing of God’s loving goodness. It’s a battle we all have to face at some point or another in our lives. In both readings we find the answer to these trials. Job and the Apostles each answer this temptation with prayer. It is in prayer that God’s presence within us whispers to our hearts, “Peace, be still.” God is present to us when we suffer and he is waiting for us to place our trust in Him. Only then can he speak the words into our souls that give us the peace and strength to continue.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus had an interesting view of this Gospel reading. In her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, St. Therese says that often times she feels that Jesus is asleep in her boat. During her dark night of the soul she was bombarded with temptations and torments, chiefly of the temptation toward atheism. She felt that God had abandoned her- left her for dead. Not long into it, she realized that God did not abandon her. Rather, Jesus was simply asleep in her little boat during this dark storm. She figures that Jesus must be very tired to be asleep in such a violent storm and so she had better not wake Him so that He can be rested. St. Therese decides to weather the wind and the rain so that Christ may get the sleep He needs. She’ll have faith and take care of what she can until her Lord wakes up. She suffers willingly for the love of God. This is how she gathers her flowers that she is so famous for. Do we ever think of Christ in terms of this? How often are we looking for God to do something for us, rather than us looking for something to do for God? How often do we gather the little flowers of good works, even in suffering, to give to our Lord?
So, here we are in our boats. Christ is asleep on a cushion in the stern. The rain has begun to fall. The sky is black and lightning flashes across the horizon. The wind is beginning to blow. The waves are tossing us back and forth. What do we do? Pray. Christ is here with us. God is present in the storm. Have faith and pray, trusting in the goodness of God. Pick a few flowers for our Lord.