My father was a captain of the Dutch Merchant Marines.  Unlike the Marines we’re familiar with in this country as a branch of our military forces, the Dutch Merchant Marines is a private, commercial enterprise that trains officers for the Dutch merchant ships.  When we moved here to America, his expertise in seafaring led him to be employed by the Insurance Company of North America where he worked in its marine department.  His job was to travel around the world and inspect ships and their cargo after they had been damaged by storms or accidents at sea.  He would come home and tell us of the destruction that ships and the merchandise in their holds had suffered in the storms at sea.  Of course, this was on merchant ships that were 500’ long and many stories high.  Sometimes, these huge ships are even lost at sea during the storms that rage in our oceans around the world.  Jesus and his disciples were in a fishing boat that was probably only 15 – 20’ long and floated only a foot or so above the water.  Like some of our Great Lakes, the Sea of Galilee is large enough to develop its own weather systems, including violent squalls like we hear about in today’s gospel.  So, you can easily imagine the terror the disciples felt as their fishing boat was being swamped by the waves that broke over their little boat.  Many of them were fishermen so I’m sure many of them had weathered storms in the Sea of Galilee but they were also surely aware of fellow fishermen who had perished in storms that raged in that inland sea.

As we place ourselves in this situation, I imagine we can easily understand that the disciples wake Jesus from his sleep as they face this great storm.  We likely would have done the same.  In their panic, we hear them ask Jesus if he cares that their lives are in danger.  Jesus wakes up and miraculously commands the winds and the waves to stillness and they obey him.  After all, the wind and waves recognize that he is God; he made them.

Jesus’ response to the disciples is striking.  He asks them: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”  He does not rebuke them for waking him up but wants to know why they were afraid.  He is amazed at their lack of faith.  After all, Jesus is God, the one who we hear about in today’s first reading sets the limits for the sea, telling it, “Thus far shall you come but no farther and here shall your proud waves be stilled.”  And, as the Gospel of Mark records, his disciples had already seen Jesus cure Peter’s mother-in-law, then a leper and a paralytic.  They had already experienced his power to expel demons.  Of course, calming the sea was in a completely different league.  From our limited human perspective, it would be easy to identify with the disciples’ fear.  Their faith in Jesus still had to grow.

The same is true for all of us.  Although faith is a gift from God, we have to nurture it so that it grows and allows us to rely more and more on God.  Of course, we have the advantage of knowing God’s greatest work through his son, Jesus, whom he raised from the dead and welcomed back at his right hand in heaven.  God has power over everything, even death!  Knowing that allows us to put our faith in God in the face of all of our concerns.  And so, when we come before God – as the disciples came to Jesus – we can do so with an assurance that he has the power to help us overcome any trial. 

At the same time, we need to recognize that God has a plan for each of us and our prayer must always include a humble acquiescence to his plan.  “Your will be done,” we will pray in a few minutes in the prayer our Lord taught us.  If we do so, then we can be assured that our prayer will be answered – according to God’s will.

Whenever we find ourselves in the midst of the storms that inevitably come to us in our lives, today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is right there in the midst of our turmoil.  Like the disciples, we can ask him to get involved.  We can beg him to calm the winds and the waves that shake us.  We can, in fact, entreat him for whatever healing or need we have in the present moment.  Let us have faith in him.  Our God is one who inspires awe in us. He is the One whom even the wind and the sea obey.  Notice, however, that he also permits the storm to brew in the first place.  Perhaps it was to test the disciples just as the storms we face test our faith.

Our readings today coax us to have courage, to be filled with awe and to have a strong faith in our almighty God.  Look at what God has already done for us!  As we prepare to receive the great gift of the Eucharist – another clear sign of God’s great power and care for us – we see how God continues to bless us and is here for us.  May we always be strong in our faith in him.