“And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Quiet now! Be calm!”
Monday, 21 June 2021
In the gospel of Sunday, we read how Jesus and his disciples, after a long day of preaching and teaching, get into the boat to cross over to the other side. And we read that they took him “just as he was” (probably meaning without the benefit of food or drink). The boats began to cross the lake, and he fell asleep after a long day of preaching and teaching.
Then we hear that a storm arose, something quite common on the Sea of Galilee. The lake is small, but because of the mountains all around and the lake itself is very low – 680 feet below sea level. The difference in height between the lake’s surface and the surrounding mountains, some over 2000 feet high, creates large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds dropping to the sea, funnelled through the hills. When the contrasting winds meet, a violent storm can arise. So too on this occasion. The waves were breaking into the boat “so that it was almost swamped”. And yet Jesus was in the stern, his head on a cushion, asleep. It is a very graphic description, a very personal one. Who remembered that? The disciples must have. A very human, very tender picture of a man, exhausted after a long day’s work, fast asleep in a boat, his head on a cushion.
They wake him and accuse him of not caring, which is a strange reaction. Of course, a man asleep cannot be aware of what is happening! And then this wonderful thing: he rebukes the wind and the sea with the words” Quiet now! Be calm!” Some commentators have said that maybe it was just his calmness that restored them to calm. But we read further that the wind dropped and all was calm again. And they said to one another: “who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”
This past Sunday we celebrated World Refugee Day. We remembered the millions of women, children and men around the world who are forced to leave their homes because of violence, persecution, crime, hunger or destitution, and seek shelter in other countries and places. None of them leaves because they want to. They often leave at a minute’s notice, carrying nothing but their children and the clothes on their backs. They leave terrified, anxious, bewildered and heartsore.
The gospel of the Storm at Sea is a very apt one for this Sunday, for many of them find themselves cast adrift on the waves, sometimes literally in the Mediterranean, sometimes figuratively in turmoil in strange lands. Jesus stands among them and calms the storm, makes the winds cease, and the waves stop crashing into the boat. Often he does this through other people, the aid workers, the international agencies, the kind hosts who take people in. Without them, those who flee would not experience the calming effect of the Lord.
What is my attitude towards those who are refugees? Do I resent their presence? Do I receive and welcome them as Jesus does? Do I welcome, protect, promote and integrate them (in the words of Pope Francis)? Do I help to calm the storm by my words and actions?