Life is often likened to a sea voyage. The analogy couldn’t be more fitting as the sea is not our natural home and its liquid state evokes an eerie feeling of instability and insecurity. Thus, the storm at sea presents a perfect picture of the overwhelming difficulties of life.
Images of raging waters and turbulent seas abound in the Old Testament and in ancient literature symbolizing the unruly forces of chaos and man’s total helplessness in its face.
We read of the deluge in Noah’s time that decimated the human race and the waters of the Red Sea that wiped out the Egyptian army. In desperation, the psalmist turns to God and cries, “Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck…” “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.”
In the gospel we find the disciples caught in a life-threatening storm while in the middle of the lake. In a panic, they wake Jesus and desperately cry for help. How ironic to see the disciples (mostly fishermen) utterly powerless at sea and seeking help from a carpenter. But Jesus is no ordinary carpenter. Jesus wakes up, rebukes the wind and tells the sea, “Be still.” The wind ceases, and there is calm.
The reaction of the disciples is one of great awe, “Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?” The disciples have known Jesus to be a healer and wonder worker. But to witness him command the wind and the sea is far beyond their expectation.
Only God has control over nature. In the first reading, God reminds Job that it is he who shuts the doors of the sea and sets its limits. Likewise, the responsorial psalm affirms that it is God who raises the waves and hushes the storm.
At the start of the pandemic, the Holy Father delivered a powerful message to the whole world from an empty square of St. Peter. Referring to today’s gospel, he commented that Jesus must have been stung by the disciples’ question, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” More than their lack of faith, it was their lack of trust that shook and hurt Jesus. They did have faith in Jesus although imperfect, but they questioned whether he cared for them.
True faith is proven in trust, total trust. To trust in God is to surrender and give control of one’s life to him. It is a fact that the last thing we give up is control. It is not uncommon to see parents deciding on their children’s course in college, and even their grandchildren’s.
I love to tell the story of young Kazantzakis who once visited a monastery and asked an old monk, “Father, do you still fight with the devil?” “No more. The devil and I have grown old, and we are both tired,” replied Fr. Makarios. “But I still wrestle with God,” continued the saintly monk.
Surprised at the answer, the youth pressed on, “are you winning?” “I hope not, my child.”
Until the end, we resist God and hold on to control. No wonder God cannot fully work and establish his kingdom in us.
Faith in God is more than just believing that he is powerful and holds control over creation. True faith has to translate into a trust which means surrendering to God’s power by giving him control of our life.
We are in Year B of the liturgical calendar wherein the gospel readings are taken from Mark. At the outset, Mark introduces Jesus as the Son of God. The whole gospel is but a narrative of how the disciples gradually discovered Jesus’ divine identity. At the start, many believed him to be a prophet. A high point was Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah at Caesarea Philippi. In the gospel, the awe-stricken disciples wondered who Jesus could be.
The fullness of the revelation comes at the end of Mark’s gospel when the centurion, having seen how Jesus died on the cross, said, “In truth, this man was Son of God.” (Mk 15:39)
The paradox is that the Son of the All-Powerful God is fully revealed in his utter powerlessness on the cross. How does this make sense? The Son of God became completely helpless because he surrendered his life to man so that man may be saved. Such is the extent of his trust and care for us. Just as he totally entrusted himself into our hands, he asks us to entrust ourselves into his.
Truly, Jesus is the Son of God. A God who is all powerful, and a God who cares.*