Homily for January 28th, 2017: Mark 4:35-41.
Jesus is sound asleep in a boat, in the middle of a storm B the only place in the four gospels, incidentally, where we find Jesus sleeping. It was the sleep of exhaustion after a busy day of healing and teaching. But it was also the tranquil rest of the only man in that boat who had no reason for fear amid the elemental forces of nature.
Though the disciples were experienced seamen, these seasoned fishermen turn in panic to their sleeping master, who unlike them was no sailor, with the reproachful question: ATeacher, do you not care that we are perishing?@ Without a word of reply, Jesus acts. AHe rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, >Quiet! Be still!=@
Repeatedly the scriptures of Jesus= people ascribe the power over wind and wave to God alone. Jesus Awoke up, rebuked the wind ... The wind ceased and there was great calm.@ It was more than the stillness of nature. There was an eerie calm in the boat as well, as Jesus= disciples look at each other in amazement, each formulating the same question: AWho then is this whom even wind and sea obey?@ Remember: their scriptures told them that only God could do what they had just seen Jesus do.
The first to break the silence is Jesus. In this story which consists almost entirely of questions, it is now his turn. AWhy are you terrified?@ Jesus asks. ADo you not yet have faith?@ Mark wants us, his readers, to hear Jesus putting these questions not only to his friends in that boat, but to all his friends, ourselves included.
From the earliest times Christians have compared the Church to a ship. Like the ark, which rescued Noah and his family from the great flood, the Church preserves us from the flood of danger and evil in the world. Time and again, however, our ship is buffeted by storms. Whenever storms assault the Church, it is easy to think that the Lord is absent B or at least indifferent. Like those first friends of Jesus in the storm on the lake, we cry out in fear. At the proper time B which is God’s time, not ours B the Lord banishes the danger, and with it our cause for fear. Having done so, he challenges us with the insistent question: AWhy are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?@
ADo you not yet have faith?@ Jesus asks. What better response could we give than the cry of another friend of Jesus in this gospel according to Mark: ALord, I believe. Help my unbelief.@ (Mark 9:4)