Job 38:1, 8-11 and Mark 4:35-41
I don’t know that I have ever been in a sea squall, but I can relate to the fear the disciples must have felt.
On one of the first vacations Peg and I took after we were married, we went to Okoboji. One day we rented a little two-seat boat with a small motor on East Lake and tried some fishing. Not being too successful, I decided we should go over to West Lake. So we motored under the highway bridge out into a bigger bay. It was a little choppier water, but I couldn’t let a little wind spoil our outing. You have to understand that East Lake Okoboji is a narrow body of water that runs kind of north and south, somewhat sheltered by trees. West Lake is a much bigger, oval lake with plenty wide open space for the wind and waves to gather momentum.
We hadn’t gone very far when I realized that these weren’t just little waves - they were three foot swells! It was then that I looked out on the lake and saw nothing! Nothing but big white rollers coming my way. There was not a single other boat on the lake - not even the really big ones.
A genuine fear for our lives came upon me. It was a fear that I have never forgotten. Two young kids about to be snuffed out and swallowed by nature in the prime of their lives. I don’t know if Peg realized it, but I knew we were looking down the barrel of death. What would they say at our funerals?
Fortunately, I knew enough about boating that I knew I could not turn around and go back. If I had, as soon as we were sideways to the wind, a swell would have flipped that little boat over. Eventually, I was able to take just a slight angle into the wind and managed to work my way to a dock on the right shore, where some men helped us secure the boat to the dock.
God is good. But I sure could have used Him that day saying to the wind “Quiet, Be Still”.
It is times like these that I realize how puny I am, especially in comparison to the forces of nature. Yet it is also reassuring to know that I can count on Jesus Christ to be with me in my puniness – to be with me in my fears and in my inadequacies.
And you know, that time on West Okoboji is not the only storm squall that has come into my life. Most of my storm squalls have been the more figurative type. Things like family squabbles - or tensions at work. These inner turmoils can be every bit as destructive as big waves.
Our lives can be repeatedly pounded by the surf of things like physical illnesses or the deaths of loved ones. Some squalls are a sea of swirling chaos brought about by the poor life choices that we have made.
Other squalls come about because of lack of finances or at least the perception of such a lack. We, too, can be buffeted by winds of fear. A serious accident can bring waves of complications and worry into our lives. Sometimes violent storm squalls come into our lives by addictions or mental illness of those close to us and we feel swamped over by the tide.
Yet, as in the Gospel, in all these things Jesus is there. Do you ever feel he is asleep on a pillow in the back of the boat? Maybe He wants you to call out to Him.
Jesus wants us to know that He is not only the creator and controller of the sea, as we heard in the reading from Job, but He is master of the stormy seas of our lives. Jesus wants us to build such a relationship with Him that we are quick to call out to Him: “Lord, calm the storms in my life as you did for your disciples.” Who better to call out to?
I really don’t know how an atheist or agnostic gets through life. Having a Savior and knowing my Savior is what can get me through those tough times. Then, in the good times, I want to come to Him in thanksgiving.
That is partly why we are here, right? Why we come each Sunday? Sure, we come to receive Him in his word and in the Eucharist. But it is vitally important for us to call out to Him in praise and thanksgiving for all the times that He has calmed the storms of our life and to ask His help in calming the storms to come.
The book of Job is a perfect book to read when you are in turmoil. Job had everything going for him. Then the Lord allowed the devil to afflict Job. He lost everything – family, possessions, even the respect of his friends. For the next 35 chapters, Job and his
three friends have a debate about the workings of God, speculating about why bad things happen to good people. Then in chapter 38, which we heard a bit of today, God answers, basically saying: if you are so smart, where were you when I created everything?
God created everything, including men and women. Then He left the whole of creation in our care. We are not the owners, we are merely the stewards. We are called to care for the earth in a manner that assures its benefits to future generations.
This week, Pope Francis released his encyclical letter: Laudato Si', translated means: “Praise Be to You”. He addresses his letter to all the people living on the planet and asks us to consider what kind of world we want to leave to those who come after us. The Holy Father invites us to reflect deeply on the effect our human activity has on nature. We must take an active role in considering not only our individual choices, like conservation and recycling, but also taking an active role in the public square when evaluating laws and national policy.
In our culture of individualism, it is important that we consider if all of our actions are directed toward the Common Good or are actions solely based on what is best for me. The need for urgent attention is clear, and Pope Francis appeals to us to become
'painfully aware' of what is happening to the world and 'to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.’
There will be many media comments about the Holy Father’s letter, some designed to sell papers or gather viewers. Some will be trying to support a particular agenda. I urge you to use good sources for commentaries on the encyclical. Fr. Robert Barron is one that has a good YouTube video. Or better yet, read the encylical yourself. Pope Francis is calling us to action.
Our bishop, Richard Pates, reminds us that “'Praise Be to You' as an encyclical is not a political document, nor a scientific document, but a religious document which our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has developed to guide us in our moral life in order that we might be faithful to the scriptures and teaching of the Church in our times."
Job gives us a great example of faithfulness to God even in adversity. Jesus shows us that He is not only Lord of creation, but also that He can be relied on in adversity.
It is important for each of us to realize and to admit that God is God and we are not. Once we develop that humility, we can draw closer to Him. As we draw closer in prayer and thanksgiving, we will learn from Him the way of true peace and good stewardship. When we listen to Jesus, when we obey what He tells us, He does provide the calm that we long for in our lives.
Isn’t it time to make the master of the seas, the Master of your Life?
Author: Deacon Bob McClellan