So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Trust in the Lord

Flat Water | CS | 2015

A few thoughts on Sunday's Mass lections (Sunday, 12th Ordinary).
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.†
If Jesus was in the stern, was He near the tiller? If He was, that would put Him in control of the boat. Who needs to worry when God Himself is the pilot of the vessel? The Captain of the Barque of Peter is the Holy Spirit, as the Lord Jesus promised. Were it not so, and only men were at the helm, the SS Holy Mother Church would have foundered centuries ago.

At this point in the Gospel story the disciples are freaking out. Imagine being in the middle of a sizeable body of water. It's pitch black, and any torches on land and the stars above would have been obscured by the storm, thus making navigation difficult and adding considerable anxiety. The disciples request of the Lord is in complete earnest, coming as it were from their heart of hearts. A fear of dying tends to connect one's head and heart and give one utter clarity of purpose or intent. Crisis tends to rend our hearts open to the possibility of "outside" help.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”*
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
The Lord acted on the disciples request.

Did the boat have a sail? Were they disciples happy now that they would probably have to paddle the rest of the journey? Perhaps they wished for a little breeze to power their becalmed boat? People can be fickle.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”They were filled with great awe and said to one another,“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
The Lord will give us what we need in order for us to understand that He is the Lord, the one in charge, and He always wants what is best for us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We may worry about this and that, but God has a way of putting things into perspective that can and often does surprise us, and perhaps shock us into reality.

Job received a little reminder and perspective from God.
Job 38.1-4, 8-11**
The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? I will question you, and you shall declare to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? — when I made the clouds its garment, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?”
The waters off the West coast of Vancouver Island can be treacherous beyond imagining. There is a reason that the waters from Cape Scott at the northern end of Vancouver Island to Tillamook Bay on the Oregon coast is known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. The coastline is littered with innumerable wrecks.

Many remote villages along the reef riddled West coast of Vancouver Island are only accessible by water. Air taxis service some places, but many rely on boat service. Imagine a sick relative needs urgent medical help that is an island away across a wind and tide roiled channel that could swallow up even the most seaworthy boat in a matter of seconds.

I can well sympathize with the disciples in their storm tossed boat. Squalls come up with little warning and can even catch off guard the most experienced boater. At night, the only indication might be the disappearing stars, then suddenly the wind is upon you like a hurricane. There is a three mile stretch of water between my hometown and a nearby island. Too many folk have underestimated that stretch of water, an inland or inside channel that, in an instant—usually in the winter—can turn into a nightmare even for large vessels. The tide has sucked people and boats down into the blackness in minutes because they thought an inland strait was benign and nothing to worry about. A local credo: always show respect for the water (sea).

Sometimes you're far enough out on the water than you can see a squall building, but there's no harbour to run to in time to avoid confronting a dangerous situation. Having known many fishermen with stories of storms and survival, my father among them, and having been in enough scary squalls myself, it is difficult to imagine any fisherman who is a complete atheist. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. There are probably just as few in a trawler making its way home across the open ocean from the Gulf of Alaska or the Queen Charlotte Sound south of Haida Gwaii.

Let's not forget the Psalmist's reminder that the Lord is ever faithful, no matter what calamity may befall us. Let us turn to our Creator with trust and thanksgiving.
Psalm 107**
Ant. Give thanks to the Lord; his steadfast love endures forever. 
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. R.
Then they were glad when it grew calm, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to the children of Adam. R.
Did this psalm spring to mind among the disciples when Jesus calmed the wind and the waters and manifested His identity?

Let us give thanks to the Lord, indeed, for His love truly endures forever. 

Whatever storms are ahead for the Church, we can trust God completely and know that we are in His all-powerful hands. We'll make it to the other shore if we have faith and trust in Him.

† American Lectionary: St. Mark 4.35-41
*Canadian Lectionary has "Peace! Be still!"
** Canadian Lectionary

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