In Chapter 8, Matthew recounts the stories of Jesus miracles. We hear of the cleansing of the leper, how the centurion’s servant was cured, and that by just laying his hand on her forehead, Jesus cured the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus has performed many miracles. The apostles saw all this and they witnessed Jesus driving out the demons. They have seen his power and have acclaimed their belief in him.
But in today’s reading, they themselves are now in imminent danger, the sudden storm is violent and unexpected, their boat is near capsizing. They must have been terrorized; they must have been overcome with fear that they wouldn’t survive the night; that they would perish at sea. With faith in Jesus’ power, they wake him and ask him to save them. For they knew that Jesus could save them. And while Jesus does save them and calms the seas, he also chastises them.
Listen carefully to Jesus’ lesson in this gospel. He isn’t saying, if you have faith, you’ll ask God for help. Rather, he tells them that their very fear demonstrates that they have only a little faith. The picture painted offers us a stark contrast in ways of dealing with the storms of our lives. We see the Apostles in turmoil – fear and terror literally paralyzing them. Here they are fishermen, men of the sea, but they are so anxious that they don’t seem to know what to do. And what is Jesus doing during this tremulous time? With waves swamping the boat and the noises of the storm surrounding them, he is calmly sleeping.
When we face storms in our lives, how do we react? Are we paralyzed by fear, by worry and anxiety? Or do we truly trust in God’s promise that we will not perish; and that God’s hand will be with us?
Let us pray for a deeper faith that we can stay calm through the storms of our lives.
Mary Lou Butler is a former staff member and a long-time partner of the Passionists at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California.