Life has a way of confronting us with many and varied challenges and trials, often when least expected. These storms take many forms: the loss of a loved one, a job, or a home… sometimes we find that our good health is not so good anymore.
I would guess that many of us, back in late 2019, did not anticipate the pandemic that is still with us, nor how it would affect our life.
There are other types of challenges and trials that we encounter and sometimes we don’t even fully understand their effect on us. These troubles may come from within us, individually, or from sources outside of us.
I’m speaking of the remarkable resistance to doing the right thing… the holy thing.
It is easy to do the right thing when it costs us nothing. It is more difficult when doing so costs us something, such as a loss of pleasure, or missing out on perceived good times with friends, or the opportunity to get ahead at work. This fear of paying the price can lead us to doing the wrong thing.
We all know such temptations. We might tell ourself, “But it’s fun and everyone is doing it, why shouldn’t I?” “I know I should go to Mass, but I forgot that the travel team is on the road this Sunday and I already made plans for Saturday night.” “My boss requires me to work on Sunday to get ready for the Monday sales presentation. What can I do?”
Again, we are afraid to pay the price of doing the right thing.
We have all heard the saying, a problem is simply a challenge and opportunity. Well, there is another type of challenge and opportunity too many of us fail to embrace. I am speaking of sharing our faith… being a light and witness for Jesus Christ.
Being Catholic means striving always to do the right thing. One of the great challenges facing the family of God today is the disconnect between the faith we profess and the life we live. As members of the church, as the people and family of God, too many of us live a poor example for what it means to be Christian.
We have been called to new life in Christ. We have been invited to a life of holiness, lived in communion with God. At our baptisms, God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has come to live in our souls. We must start living like the temples of God we are.
There is a reason the command to Be Not Afraid is found throughout scripture. Fear keeps us from right belief, right worship, and right living. Fear distracts and dissuades us from living the commission we have each been given. Jesus invites us to live in His Peace, to let the Holy Spirit empower us, to Be Not Afraid to go into the world and let our Catholic faith inform our every action and decision… in the home, in the office, in the classroom, in the marketplace, in the public square, at work and at leisure.
In today’s Gospel, one of life’s storms confronts and challenges the Apostles and disciples. This is no little storm. The Apostles, many of whom are experienced fishermen, are terrified as they are confronted by a violent squall in a small boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. And to top that off, Jesus is in the stern of the boat, asleep on a cushion!
Fear has taken over the Apostles who now question God’s love of them. They awaken Jesus and question whether he cares for their lives and safety.
We should look for a moment at the context of today’s Gospel passage. It is Mark 4:35-41 and follows last Sunday’s parables of the Kingdom. Jesus gave those parables from a boat just off the shoreline. It is this same boat in which they find themselves in this storm. It is likely that Jesus did not even go ashore after preaching before they started off across the sea. He is doing the work of His Father, the same work He will soon commission the Apostles to carry on.
Jesus displays a calmness in His holy work. They are crossing the sea to make their first entry into Gentile territory. This anticipates the mission and reach of the Church Jesus will establish (“make disciples of all nations”).
Jesus models the trust in God that the Apostles (and each of us) need to carry out this commission.
Do you sometimes question whether God loves you? Do you allow fear to overcome you? Listen to what Jesus says to the Apostles after rebuking the wind and quieting the sea. “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Where is our faith and trust in God when we are tempted to do the wrong thing… to sin for pleasure, for belonging or for financial gain? Borrowing from St. Augustine, is Jesus asleep in your soul? Wake Him up in faith, trusting that with Him everything will be alright.
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”
I would remind fathers on this Father’s Day weekend, that this loyalty especially applies to your handing on the faith. So dads, model the life and love of God the Father for your children and family. You owe them this loyalty. Teach them well in word and example. When your children look at you, may they see God the Father reflected in your love.
I’ll close with these words from Pope Francis [h/t to Joan Watson], “Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies…”[So, let us turn to God and pray,] “You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak, and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, ‘cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us’ (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).”
Into the deep…
Deacon Bickerstaff is available to speak at your parish or event. Be sure to check out his Speaker Page to learn more. Into the Deep is a regular feature of the The Integrated Catholic Life™.
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