Our gospel today is one each of us should eagerly take to heart because it is about finding hope amidst unforeseen storms. In this story, the disciples are about to embark on a simple evening sail across the lake to Capernaum. Nothing seems amiss, nothing ominous appears on the horizon. Indeed, because they have likely taken this journey many times before, when they set out on what seem to be untroubled waters, there is no reason for them to expect anything other than smooth sailing. But suddenly, and quite unpredictably, everything changes. As if out of nowhere, strong winds and rough waters leave them fearing for their lives, utterly at the mercy of forces they are powerless to control.
Is it any different for us? This gospel story is a fitting metaphor for our lives because there are moments for all of us when everything—like the waters of the lake that evening—seems calm, tranquil, and promising. But then, through no fault of our own, we sail into unforeseen storms and find ourselves buffeted by unexpected misfortune, tossed about by overwhelming adversity or nearly pulled under in oceans of loss and desolate grief. Too, like the disciples that unforgettable evening, we can feel that Jesus is nowhere in sight when we need him most, leaving us to navigate the rough seas of our lives all on our own.
But that is never true. In this gospel story, Jesus doesn’t quiet the storm or calm the waters; rather, he’s walking right beside the disciples as they make their way through the storm, even though at first they do not see him. Similarly, we may not be able to escape the storms of suffering, hardship, calamity, and loss, but we never navigate them alone. We can always find hope amidst unforeseen storms because Jesus says to us exactly what he said to those disciples that night: “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the Passionist Family.