Fr. Biju Kannampuzha is the pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Barrie, Ont.
Today’s readings feature a God who is calming the storms of life. In the first reading we hear the Lord speaking to Job, whose life was devastated by storms of illness: the deaths of his dear ones and the total loss of his possessions. “Out of the storm,” God reminds Job that He is in control.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm picks up the storm theme and tells us how the Lord saves the sailors caught up in the high waves of a tempest by “hushing the storm to a gentle breeze.” “They who sailed the sea in ships ... saw the works of the Lord and His wonders in the abyss.”
And in in the Gospel, Jesus rebukes the wind and says to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then, the wind ceased and there was a dead calm.
Our world had been brought to a standstill by a simple virus. During these months of pandemic, I have heard an avalanche of feelings: panic, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, confusion, uncertainty and despair. Even the most religious people asked: Why is this happening? Where is God in COVID-19 pandemic? Does God not care?
Sounds like the question the disciples asked Jesus in today’s Gospel, “They woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’”
The question is essentially the same that people ask when a hurricane wipes out hundreds of lives or when a child dies from cancer.
Last week, I was called to the bedside of a young man dying of cancer. I knelt beside Noah, a teenager, who was in the prime of his studies, who had many more years to live and I was hoping and praying for a miracle. But Noah slipped away surrounded by his parents, grandparents and friends.
At one point one of his friends asked, “Why does God let this happen?” And really the only thing that I could say was that I did not know. I had no answer that could satisfy any one of them as they watched their son or friend die – let alone soothe the pain. All I could do was to be with them in those hours, to offer the sacraments, to pray with and for them. All I could was sit by, helplessly watching the sufferings, pain, loss, sorrow and tears.
The night before his funeral Mass, Noah’s friends from St. John Vianney school gathered in front of the church, prayed for him and with colour chalk wrote in the parking lot where the funeral coach stops, “Noah, you’ll always be our friend. We will miss you.”
I celebrated the funeral Mass for Noah on this Friday, one of the most difficult funerals I ever did. Though I tried, I wasn’t able to hold it together.
I reminded myself, God is large and He is in charge. Jesus said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Yes, God is large and He is in charge, I believe.
Today’s Gospel gives some important lessons for us to take to heart during these difficult and uncertain times.
Following Jesus does not exempt us from storms of life. The disciples followed Jesus — the Son of God who had healed the sick, fed the hungry and performed miracles — into the boat and across the sea. And still a storm came. Storms are a part of life.
Make sure Jesus is with us in the boat of our life. Jesus was there in the boat with the disciples in the midst of that storm. Jesus never promised that there wouldn’t be storms in our life; But He promised to be with us in the storm.
Jesus will calm the storm! Jesus said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased and there was a dead calm. Be patient and trust in the Lord.
With Jesus in our boat, we will surely reach the other side. At the beginning of this Gospel story, Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side.” Finally, Jesus and His disciples reached the other side safely, irrespective of the storm during the middle of the journey, they completed their journey.
When we are in the midst of a pandemic, or recovering from illness, or grieving the loss of a loved one, or searching for a job, or waiting to get married, or having a child – whatever it may be – whenever Jesus says, “Let us go to the other side,” irrespective of however fierce the storm is in the middle, we will always reach the shore. Let us row our boats with Jesus inside the boat!!
There is a story of about a captain who in his retirement skippered a boat that took day trippers to the Shetland Islands, an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean that is about 170 km north of mainland Scotland. On one trip, the boat was full of young people. They laughed at the elderly captain when they saw him saying a prayer before sailing out, because the day was fine and the water was calm. However, they weren’t at sea long when a storm suddenly blew up and the boat began to pitch violently. The terrified passengers came to the captain and asked him to join them in prayer. But he replied, “I say my prayers when it’s calm. When it’s rough I attend to my ship.”
If we cannot and will not seek God in the quiet moments of our lives, we are not likely to find him when trouble strikes. But if we learn to seek him in quiet moments, then most certainly we will find him when the going gets rough.
This homily is based on the readings for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B: Job 38.1-4, 8-11; Psalm 107; 2 Corinthians 5.14-17; Mark 4.35-41.