Many of you are probably familiar with the story of Jesus stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the one in which Jesus falls asleep in the stern, and his disciples cry out, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Below is the version from the Gospel of Mark:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
In times like the one we have found ourselves today, we may be tempted to cry out to God, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” This is a very stormy time indeed, and I do not blame us if we are throwing questions at God, as generations before us did in their own times of trouble, such as wars and plagues. One of the most common spiritual struggles is the feeling of God’s absence during difficult times. This spiritual struggle occurs in even the most religious people — bishops, theologians, and even saints. The Jesuit priest, Rev. James Martin writes that “Perhaps because when we are struggling, we tend to focus on the area of pain. It’s natural, but it makes it more difficult to see where God might be at work in other places, where God is not asleep.” These words have been helpful to me in recent days, as I find myself scrolling through the news of rising cases of the virus and the beginnings of economic hardship for multitudes of people. I find myself focusing on the area of pain. But if I shift my lens, I begin to see all of the stories of the helpers, those who are setting aside their personal needs and desires to come to the aid of those most affected; those who are organizing ways for children to get lunch, for the elderly to receive groceries, for the lonely to feel connected. I have seen Italians singing from balconies, levels of pollution plummeting, long-lost friends reconnecting online. I have watched creativity blossom in my own home, as we learn to be artists and writers and cooks. Our dinner prayers are different, more meaningful, more specific, more grateful. The neighbors are talking more, offering to help in so many unexpected ways. It brings me hope, and as I shift my lens I see that God is with us, awakening in our hearts, stilling the storm in unforeseen ways.
Let us pray.
Remember all of us this day, O Lord, in your mercy: Be with those who work for our well-being while we remain at home, those who continually serve our community needs, those who comfort the suffering and the bereaved, and those who minister to and wait upon the dying. Amen.