Stilling the Storm- A homily by Fr. Luke of St Joseph’s Abbey

A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind… Mark 4

The early 13th-century Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, is credited with the division of the books of the Bible into chapters. Today’s gospel of the calming of the storm at sea is the final section of Chapter Four of Mark. It seems odd that a chapter that is chock-a-block full of parables should end with the beginning of the narrative of a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, especially as the boat trip ends at the beginning of the next, chapter five. Why didn’t the Archbishop simply make Chapter Four a collection of parables with a unified theme, and then begin Chapter Five with the entire narrative of the crossing of the sea?

The scripture scholar Marie Sabin proposes a solution to this enigma. She writes, “in the first part of chapter 4, Mark shows Jesus teaching in parables. In the end, however, he shows Jesus teaching by his actions. He shows Jesus stilling the sea as God stills the sea in the psalms. He shows Jesus to be ‘like God.’ He shows Jesus to be in Himself a Wisdom parable. Those who are his disciples have been granted a direct encounter with ‘the mystery of the kingdom of God.’”  However, There is more to this parabolic mystery of Jesus who is like God than just the fact that Jesus and our God of the psalms calm the raging seas at their command. The purpose of the parables (and indeed of this parable whether Sabin’s theory is correct or not) is to illuminate our hearts and minds about God’s being and acting in our lives. This final parable-in-action is more than a narrative to make us say “Wow, Jesus can still a storm by his word alone!” Rather, Jesus can calm the storm of doubt that constantly churns in my heart, our hearts. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus, do you not care about me? About us?

If a parable is a wisdom riddle that asks a question of our hearts, the real question in today’s is posed by that mysterious God-man Jesus himself in a double-barreled way: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith? Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” These are questions I ask myself often—perhaps they are being asked within me by the Lord himself as I tremble before each new storm in my life, each new challenge to believe and to love, each new call to be who I say I am.

That little word ‘yet’, in the middle of the second question, “Do you not yet have faith?” gives me hope. It helps me realize that even as I mostly fail to trust in the Lord, the Lord Jesus has hopes that eventually I will realize what it means that He, “just as He was” (truly God and truly man), is in the boat with me.  No, more than that! Actually, I am in the boat with Him. HE it was who invited me and all of us with the words, “Let us cross to the other side!” He wants us to be with Him. Let us leave our little safe harbors where we see only to protect ourselves and sail out on the open sea of life in Christ, whose depths (as sounded by the Holy Spirit) are “too deep for words”, whose new horizons are so broad, as broad as the shoulders and arms of Jesus that span the cross and embrace the whole of creation in God’s love. But our incarnate Lord Jesus is not content to be in the boat with us. The incarnate Lord Jesus desires to be within us in the Eucharistic communion. Soon, He will be within us in His body, soul, and divinity to love us from within and make our “not yet” existence move closer to “now.” He rebuked the wind and said to the sea and to you and to me, “Quiet! Be still!”