By Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S.
For those who have little children, the Gospel story may bring to mind images that are familiar. You might recall sleeping soundly through a thunderstorm but then suddenly being awaken by a frightened child who tries to crawl into bed with you. The child is calmer now, feeling secure in the arms of his or her parent.
In the Gospel, Mark tells us of a storm that has popped up on the sea and Jesus is sleeping. The disciples are frightened and call to Jesus. Jesus awakes and calms the sea and once again they are secure.
One of the messages of the storm story is that the Lord remains with us in the storm. The Lord is present to his fearful and faithless disciples. He may rebuke us as he rebuked those disciples in the boat. However, his presence in the storm is not just a rebuking presence. It is ultimately a creative and life-giving presence. Jesus brought calm out of the chaos; he tamed the storm and saw to it that the boat reached the other side.
In the art and literature of the ancient Mediterranean world, a boat or ship was a common symbol for community, especially a community at risk. It is an image we evoke spontaneously when, finding ourselves in a group experiencing a shared threat, we say, “It looks like we’re all in the same boat.”
But there is an interesting twist to the Scriptures this week. The first reading from Job is God speaking to Job after Job’s lament over the storms and sufferings he has endured. At the beginning of this speech God seems to put Job in his place for questioning God’s ways, but God then goes in an entirely different direction.
God speaks from the storm and tells Job that the sea came forth from God’s womb! He says that he took the clouds and wove them into swaddling clothes for baby ocean and then made the clouds into garments.
God speaks with such maternal care because he is faced with Job, an individual who has lost hope. God had long delayed answering Job’s prayers, it is true, and had let Job’s immense losses go on for an awfully long time. Now, at last, he tries to soften Job’s despair. “Weren’t you present when I lavished such love on everything I created?” he asks. “Don’t you remember my love? Don’t you trust it?”
So even in the storms tossing Job’s life all around, God was and is still present. Perhaps this is the challenge for us, to see that God is with us even in the storms that toss our lives around.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Tim McFarland, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish, Celina, Ohio.