The Gospel (Mk 4: 35-41) for the Saturday of the third week in Ordinary Time tells the dramatic story of Jesus’ miracle when He saved His disciples from the “violent squall” that befell their boats in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. I love how Jesus was peacefully sleeping in the stern.
According to the fourth chapter of Mark He had just finished a long day, standing on perhaps this very same boat, preaching to the many people that were on the shore. Our human Brother got tired, like all of us. The disciples had to wake Him and even dared to reprimand their Master: “ Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing ?” Our Lord swiftly takes care of the situation, as if this dangerous natural phenomenon were just a little, unruly child: “ Quiet! Be still!”
Jesus is apparently disappointed at their lack of faith, and they seemed to confirm His opinion as they say (One of my most beloved sentences in the Bible!): “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” They still did not understand the incredible Blessing that they were living with. Even now, some of us, at certain moments find ourselves at the perilous edge of our faith in difficult, stormy times. The Loving One is sleeping quietly within us, and we just can’t find the way to “wake Him”, or so we think. I also find myself suddenly, even in the midst of my most recollected moments, asking Him the question: “Who ARE You? “
I was thinking about this Gospel on our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as I stood on the prow of the wooden ship that was giving us a ride on the Sea of Galilee. Conditions were totally different from those in the Gospel. The blue waters of the Lake were totally calm, reflecting the clouds in the sky. It was very beautiful and comforting. On the shore we could discern the traditional sites of the Sermon on the Mount, of the place where Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?”, and of the ruins of the ancient town of Capernaum. I wondered where along that shore was the cove where Jesus stood on the boat and told His parables. To think that some 2,000 years ago He WAS here, at this lake, filled me with emotion.
Everyone in the boat was so quiet. The vessel was large enough for us to walk around, from one side to the other. The water was so still that we did not have to sit down. There was such peace, and yet I remembered the Gospel, how from one minute to the other a dreadful storm could come along and threaten our lives. Either way, our Lord is always with us, resting in our hearts.
As we were returning, the boat staff played recorded music, well-known religious hymns like “Amazing Grace”, “How Great Thou Art”, and Gospel songs at a faster tempo. Many of us started to hum or sing along, even lift our arms, clap our hands, and “dance”. The Holy Spirit of joy was palpable. We would move around, look into each others eyes without fear, and smile, even laugh. There was such fellowship to this group of Pilgrims, so much love. I thank God every time I think of them.
The boat on the Sea of Galilee can be seen as a symbol of our Church, carrying the people of God. We move on, forward, to where Jesus is taking us. Sometimes it gets turbulent, but no matter what our problems, we’re in this boat together and our ship’s Master is always with us.