Life Is a Voyage

We often associate water with life. In today’s readings, however, the image of water is used to depict destruction, disorder, and death.

In the first reading, God addresses Job out of the storm and reprimands him for questioning his wisdom. God asks Job, “Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb?” This rebuke alludes to the story of creation in the book of Genesis when the Spirit hovered over the turbulent water, the ancient symbol of chaos and destruction. To control such forces is a prerogative of God alone.

The same divine attribute is recognized in the responsorial psalm. The sailors who are in danger of sinking in the sea address their cry of distress to God who alone can “hush the storm and still the sea.”

Thus, the two readings fittingly serve as a backdrop for today’s gospel story. Jesus invites his disciples to cross the lake of Galilee, and while they are in the middle of the lake, a dreadful storm suddenly threatens to submerge their boat. The disciples then cry to Jesus, who is sleeping in the stern, for help.

Life is often likened to a pilgrimage. This is the image used by Pope Francis in launching the Jubilee Year 2025 with its theme, “Pilgrims of Hope.” We do not belong to this world. We are only pilgrims passing through as we journey together towards our true home where the Father awaits us.

Today’s gospel however offers an even more expressive and fitting image of life. Life is more like a voyage at sea. Like the sea, life is unstable and unpredictable. It is fraught with threats from forces beyond our control. But if we are in the barque of Peter, we can be confident that we shall not perish because the Lord is at the helm. He may be asleep, but he holds the winds and the waves under his control.

One final word about control. The readings remind us of our proper place in life. Job is faithful to God as long as things go well for him. However, when things turn bad, he begins to question God. God answers him in no uncertain terms: He is God, and he is in control. Job needs to know his place in the created world for he is merely a creature, not God. He was not present when God contained the water and set its limit in land and sky. It is he, the Lord, who is in control, not us.

Likewise, the gospel carries the same message. It portrays an awkward situation wherein the disciples (mostly fishermen, hence experts of the sea) suddenly find themselves powerless and turn to a carpenter for help. But Jesus is no ordinary carpenter. At the end of the narrative, the disciples can only say to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

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