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 (Mt 8:23-24).
Noah’s ark, as well as the boat in today’s Gospel pericope, has often been a symbol for the Church. The storms may rage without, but those who remain in the boat will be secure. The image of Jesus sleeping can also be a sign for the storms within the boat, within the Church – where it may appear that Jesus is absent.
We are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, we are good, but we are also fallible and wounded by our sin. We are wounded by the very gift of the free will we have been given. God loves us so much he is willing to risk that we will choose to place other people, places and things before him. We will pursue the promises of wealth, fame, honor and pleasure as substitutes for our true and abiding happiness which can only come from God. God does not cause our suffering, but he will allow us to reap the consequences of our choices.
The hope is that we will learn from our mistakes and grow to realize that we need to remember that God is to be first in all we think, say and do. Even in our darkest moments, even in the darkest moments of the Church, we need to remember that God has not abandoned us. When we are experiencing the storms in our lives that come from without caused by others or the storms from within caused by our own sin or lack of faith, Jesus may appear to be distant, he may seem to not even exist. Yet, just as Jesus was calmly, sleeping in the boat with the disciples, he was present with them and he is present with us. Once the disciples turned to Jesus and implored his help, Jesus calmed the stormy sea.
Our focus on Jesus through the good times and the bad is the key when life gets bumpy. Our faith in Jesus grows as our trust and relationship in him grows. We just need to remember to turn to him in all our circumstances in life and when we are in need, we will know he is there. Whether that be our own mental storms of anxiety, whether we are dealing with conflict in a relationship, whether we are dealing with some crisis physically, economically, or spiritually, or out beyond ourselves to the Church as a whole such as the present abuse crisis, the inhumanity inflicted upon our brothers and sisters on the border, or the violence inflicted upon the Church throughout the world.
We need not even fear death, because Jesus has conquered death. Jesus chided his disciples, who feared the worst, as they were tossed about in the boat on the raging sea, for having little faith. He knew they could have stilled the wind as he had done or that God would have helped them to ride the storm out, if they had just placed their focus on God instead of their fear.
In all these areas and more, when Jesus may appear to be asleep, or absent, trust and know that he is present. We also have the power to calm the storms in our life or feel his peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding, as we ride out those storms when we come to know him and call on his name. We just need to have faith in Jesus and believe.