Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
The apostles sailed out with Jesus on the boat. They’d seen him multiply the loaves and fishes, heal the sick, fill their nets with fish. He seemed to be able to do anything. They didn’t doubt it for a minute. They probably felt secure as they tied up the lines and prepared for an evening sail. It was good to get away from the crowds. Jesus and his friends, yes, they probably felt pretty good going out onto the Sea of Galilee. After all, they had Jesus with them. He fell asleep.
No one woke him when the storm started. “Do you think we should wake him up?” someone probably asked. No one did. They tied down the lines, pulled in the nets and set about trying to maintain the smooth course they’d thought the evening would afford. The storm grew worse. The wind and the waves grew bigger, and no one could see the land. Nothing felt safe. Everything felt so fragile. Everything felt so vulnerable. They might capsize. They might drown. They might die. “Wake him up.” Someone shook Him. He didn’t wake. Someone screamed, “Lord, save us!” “We’re perishing.” The ship seemed certain to be sinking after that last wave. They’d taken on a lot of water, and the storm showed no signs of abatement.
Jesus woke. He calmed the storm but was amazed at their lack of faith. It would seem they had great faith in Jesus. They knew he could do something about the storm. Except they didn’t, because they believed that being friends with Jesus meant no suffering, no struggling, no dark nights of the soul, no storms that must be simply endured.
These were good men, Godly men, Jesus loving men. These followers of Jesus believed in His capacity to do something about not merely sickness, but anything He willed. They turned out to be right, and still drew back in awe, “Who is this who even the seas obey?” Jesus tells them and us over and over again, who He is. He is Lord. He comes to heal the sick, help the blind see and bring good news to the poor. He comes to embrace the cross, to offer Himself as a living sacrifice for us and our salvation, to ransom us from our chains of sin. He does not come to give us endless sunny days and smooth waters with no skinned knees, no labor pains and no trials.
Yet we keep thinking that God should do this for us. God can be good only if I don’t suffer. God can be good only if the ones I love never suffer. God can be good only if we never have anything to worry about. It’s simply not true. The apostles fell into this thinking. The storm revealed to them that Jesus was with them in the storm, not that Jesus was there to do away with all storms.
So we suffer hardships big and small, cruelties and arguments, injustices and outrages, paper cuts and bad decisions, illnesses, sin and death. Jesus is there with us, through all of it, suffering with us, always present and offering to calm the storms in our souls, even if the ones we weather in the world will not ebb. The cancer doesn’t go away, the bills don't vanish, the trials go on, and yet we can weather these with grace if we cooperate with God.
Looking at the news, both in the Catholic Church and the world at large, we have many storms battering our souls — threatening to drown us with the violence, the sin, the power grabs, the waste, the failures to lead, the failures to live lives of virtue. Jesus is with us, offering his presence.
We may be praying, “Lord, save us, we are perishing.” We should know, Jesus is on the boat, and he will save us if we allow him.
If we look back at the Gospel, and use Jesus’ rebuke of the apostles as a guide, and wish not to fall into the error of treating our friendship with Christ as a talisman against trial, we should say to Him, “Thank you for sleeping on my heart. I’m glad my life is a good place for you to find rest. Stay with me in this storm, I know you will. Calm it if it will bring me good, and if not, please, calm me.” In the end, what Jesus asks of us, is to place our trust in Him, as he has placed his heart in our hands, by being on the boat with us.