Monday, June 22, 2015
Storms: 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time
(Listen to this homily here).
The common theme in our readings this weekend is storms.
Like you, storms have always fascinated me. I wouldn’t call myself a storm chaser or anything, but it is pretty cool to watch nature put on some fireworks. I have to admit though, ever since becoming a priest I have grown to love storms—when it storms at 4:00pm on Saturday or 10:00am Sunday people are reminded to leave the lake and cabin and come to church! If I could, I would set a clock to bring us a storm every weekend at these times. Lucky for you, I don’t have such authority.
Storms amaze us—and we know a lot about them. We have meteorology and weather forecasts. We know about things like atmospheric pressure and electricity. Yet a storm still fascinates.
Now imagine being alive three thousand years ago and experiencing a thunderstorm. You, like everyone else, would attribute such a phenomena to the work of gods (or God). In the Old Testament, one god to which storms were given credit was Baal. The followers of Baal believed that a storm represented his terror and reign over humanity. He would shout at humans with thunder and throw arrows at them (lightning).
Naturally, the Israelites also saw God’s power and majesty in nature through storms. Thus we hear that, “The Lord addressed Job out of the storm,” and in the responsorial Psalm, “They cried to the LORD in their distress; from their straits he rescued them, He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled.” Most especially we see this in the calming of the storm by Jesus Christ.
The setting of the Gospel was on the Sea of Galilee. Now when we hear the word sea we probably think of a vast body of water, like an ocean. The Sea of Galilee, though, is actually a lake. To compare it to our area, the Sea of Galilee is one-sixth the size of Rainy Lake—thirteen miles at its longest and eight miles at its widest. Storms could thus come up quickly on fishermen, leaving them in a dangerous position.
Imagine the terror the disciples experienced! They weren’t wearing modern life jackets. Waves were pounding the small boat up and down and were coming over the bow. The wind was howling. Thunder and lightning were booming. The rain poured from heaven. The disciples were probably thinking they were going to drown.
“Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?’”
If these men saw God’s majesty, power and authority in storms, who but God alone could calm a storm? In this small boat, the disciples knew that Jesus was God!
I would like to bring this to the spiritual level—metaphorically speaking we all experience storms in life. Whether it is an addiction, depression, anxiety, cancer, illness or other trials, storms are bound to come our way. How often do we, like the disciples, call out to Jesus “…do you not care that we are perishing?” while he seems to be sleeping?
Yet the account of Jesus calming the storm should give us great hope. We see how Jesus immediately answered the disciples. Jesus answers our prayers, too. Not only this, but also Jesus had the authority to calm the storm. So too does he have the power to answer our greatest needs. And just as Jesus was near in the disciples’ time of fear and danger, he is always close to us.
Just as storms in nature come and go, we each experience storms in our lives. Have faith…Jesus is close!