A Boat on Stormy Seas – Gospel Reflection


A Boat on Stormy Sea (Mark 4:35-41)

Some years ago, we had the Year of Faith, and the logo for the year featured a boat tossed about on a stormy sea … today’s Gospel.  It was a very appropriate image of the Church in our time.  In the storm-tossed boat Jesus was asleep.   Many people have that sinking feeling when it seems that God is asleep and not answering our prayers.  There are critics who gloat over every wave which crashes on deck.  They look forward to the time when the Church will have sunk without trace.

The story begins when Jesus decides to cross over to the pagan side of the lake where they might receive a stormy reception.

How could anybody sleep through the turbulence and shouting while the boat was close to sinking?  Yet Jesus was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.   There is a lesson for us here.  It often happens when people are experiencing what operatic composer Verdi called the tempest of the heart, they pray and plead with God but it seems that God is asleep.   When Jesus did eventually wake up, he rebuked the wind, repeating how  he had cast out an evil spirit.  “Quiet now! Be calm!”  And the wind dropped and all was calm again.

Then he asked the disciples, “Why are you so frightened?  How is it that you have no faith?”

It’s easy for me sitting at my desk to say that faith tells us that God is always watching us.  As a popular song puts it, “God is watching, at a distance.”  But for a person in deep darkness or turbulence all these nice words may offer no comfort.

Some advice

Is there any advice one can give?  If the person wants to let fly in anger against God, my advice is to let fly.   Some of the sacred psalms show us how to give out to God.  We wouldn’t be giving out if we did not believe that we expected more from God.  Angry prayer is honest prayer.  An expression of anger can be therapeutic.  Break the silence.  As Seamus Heaney said, if you have the words there is always a chance you can find a way.  It invariably happens that, when peace of mind returns, the one who was angry is now humbly apologising to God!

Another piece of advice comes from the gospel story where the friends of a crippled man stripped the roof off a house to bring their friend to Jesus.   If you are in deep darkness and feel that you cannot pray, is there any person you can contact to pray in your name?  Even if no name comes to mind, remember that you are part of the body of Christ which is the Church, and at any given moment there are people at prayer in your name.   You may not know them, but you have many faith-friends who are carrying you, poor cripple, through the roof to God.   There are many contemplative orders of men and women whose lives are dedicated to prayer.  These people keep the flame of faith burning at all times.

Today’s Responsorial Psalm

Then they called to the Lord in their need

And he rescued them in their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper:

and the waves of the sea were hushed.

They rejoiced because of the calm

And he led them to the haven they desired.

Let them thank the Lord for his love,

the wonders he does for people.

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