Gospel Text: Mark 4:35-41
V. 35 With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’
V. 36 And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him.
V.37 Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped.
V.38 But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.
V.39 They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’
And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!‘ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again.
V.40 Then he said to them,
‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’
They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’
(The painting above right: Christ calms the Storm is by Giorgio de Chirico, 1914.)
2. Commentary by Fr Michel de Verteuil
Unlike the passages of the last two weeks, this Sunday’s passage is, in one sense, a single story and we must read it as a whole. But in another sense, it tells two stories – one of Jesus and one of the apostles. Each has its movement that we can enter into, and there is a striking contrast between the attitudes shown in each.
As you meditate, observe how you are situating yourself in relation to the passage: which of the two stories are you identifying with, the one of Jesus or the one of the apostles? Is it your personal story or the story of someone who has touched your life? Does Jesus remind you of some person or of God himself? Is this something that is happening now or something that has happened in the past?
Answering these questions will help you enter into the story.
Scriptural Reflection and Prayer
Lord, humanity finds itself in a bad way:
The waves are breaking into our boat so that it is almost swamped
and we have the impression that we are going down.
All this time the values of Jesus are there within our reach
– compassion, trust, love of enemies, honesty –
but we have left them in the back of the boat, unused.
We pray that we may turn to these values in this moment of need,
that like the apostles we may discover with awe
that these values can command the winds and the seas.
Lord, we thank you for the great people of faith we have known,
An uncle or aunt, a little tradesman in the village,
The granny of the community, the kind of person who could sleep
comfortably because they trust in you.
How often we have been condescending towards them,
Taking charge of them as the apostles took charge of Jesus,
And they went along with us.
Then it began to blow a gale, and we felt we were going down,
We turned to them and experienced their power.
Lord, modern people have confidence in brute force;
We look on trust as weak and ineffectual.
We thank you that you sent us someone like Gandhi.
He showed the world that trust is a mighty power,
One that could rebuke the wind and the sea, and say to them,
Quiet now! Be calm!” and the whole world was in awe, saying,
“Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.”
Lord, we who are leaders in the church, we talk easily about faith.
But every one in a while you say to us,
“Let us cross over to the other side” and make us leave the crowd behind us
Then, on the open sea, without our usual supports,
We experience how frail we are, how easily we could go down.
That is a moment of grace for us as we realize
That we have been living on the surface of ourselves,
Trusting in success and popularity,
And deep within ourselves, Jesus was asleep.
Now with him awake we have the resources
To calm the winds and the sea.
Lord, our rulers often act
as if the destiny of the country is in their hands.
Teach them that Jesus is in the little people
Forgotten in the back of the boat
And if we turn to them we will discover to our surprise
That they have the resources to calm the storm
And we will get safely to the other side.
3. Commentary by Sean Goan
The dramatic story of the storm at sea brings into focus in very vivid manner the challenge of being in a relationship of faith with Jesus. He has just finished teaching them about the kingdom and its presence when he suggests they cross to the other side. This is a dangerous suggestion for he is asking them as it grows dark, to to journey into the unknown, the pagan or Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee. Soon they find themselves in the midst of a storm with the waves swamping their small boat and the master asleep, apparently unconcerned. Their question to his says it all:’Do you not care?’
This plea gathers up the prayers of many who feel they are drowning in what can bea harsh and cruel world. Jesus hears their cry and like God in the first reading from Job,manefests his power by bringing calm into choas. However, he also challenges them with a question that equals theirs for is relevance: ‘Have you still no faith?‘ They have already seen him heal the sick,teach with authority and perform exorcisisms, but something is missing as regards their attachment to him; a deep trust that he does care.
The storm at sea offers the perfect metaphor for expressing our doubts about faith. The power of nature can leave us feeling utterly insignificant; we are powerless and totally at the mercy of the elements. So too life can appears incredibly because of illness, bereavement, broken relationships, and shattered dreams. At times the sailing in a small boat, on a dark night, into the eye of a storm, perfectly describes how we are. At such times Jesus invites us to trust and it is only in doing that that we learn how.
4. Commentary by Fr Donal Neary, SJ
The Sleeping Jesus
In what for the apostles was a very bad storm, Jesus slept. It’s like he seems asleep in the deep darknesses of life – people’s darkness of self-esteem, long-term illness, addiction, migration, and what causes big storms our lives. But in the friendship and love of God we find we can survive and even grow through them, especially the troubles we have little control over. Even when Jesus was asleep the apostles felt his protective presence…
They found calm only when they were in the middle of the storm. We will find Jesus in the middle also of our storms, when we try not to hide our troubles from him. This was how Job got a bit better in the first reading – his friends were trying to help him avoid his troubles, like take a few drinks, enter a transitory relationship – all the things we do to avoid our troubles. In the middle of the tempest, God spoke to him.
We sit with him in prayer and let him know how we are, and just allow his calm come over us. We find courage and hope at the Mass and other sacraments, like the great peace of a young manwhen he received the anointing of the sick, who had left church practice for years, Or the help we can get from the community of people in parish and in the church at bad times. It gives us the courage and strength to deal with what are storms in our lives.
Remember a bad time when God seemed to help you.
Prayer: Protect us from all anxiety as we wait.