My Sisters and Brothers! When we come to church we hear the readings from the Scriptures which may be challenging, difficult or confronting. However regardless how we perceive them these sacred texts nurture and sustain our faith. Removing difficult passages will not help our faith. Accepting them will help our faith.
Let us look at the First Reading where God says: ‘I wrapped the sea in a robe of mist and made the black clouds its saddling bands; I marked the bounds it was not too cross and made it fast with a bolted gate.’ Now let us look at the Gospel where Jesus orders the sea and wind: ‘Quite now! Be calm!’
Some people, like President Jefferson, cannot accept it. As we gather for this Mass we listen to these accounts so that our faith could grow. If it is hard for some of us to accept it now the reading will come back again at some stage to nurture and sustain weak faith.
Some other people listening to readings like these at the time of natural disasters will claim that God is not a loving Father if he didn’t stop the floods. Such claims were articulated after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which killed 50 thousand people in Portugal. If Jesus calmed the stormy sea why didn’t he calm the earthquake? Why didn’t he stop the recent floods? Is it appropriate to read such a Gospel passage at the time of natural disaster then? It is appropriate and it is much needed. We need these sacred texts so that we could preserve the faith that our God is not after our destruction. Our God is after our salvation.
When we read about the creation of the world we discover that God placed our first parents in Paradise. It wasn’t just a beautiful world but it was also a safe world. When the first people sinned they damaged their relationship with God and it damaged their relationship with the planet too. The Bible tells us that they were expelled from Paradise. They lost that secure and integral connection with the earth. It took people a long time to realise that polluting and exploiting the planet is destructive. The lesson to learn yet is that my sins and your sins, and the sins of others, are also destructive to our world.
Observing the calamities around us some can say that the world slipped out of God’s hand or that God doesn’t exist. For us Christians these calamities remind us that people still sin, that sin still affects our relationship with this planet we call our temporary home. However we still cling to our belief that the saving God is with us. That’s why this Gospel reading is one of those precious treasures which allow us to answer the question which the Apostles in the boat asked each other after Jesus calmed the storm: ‘Who can this be?’ Our answer is: ‘This is Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour.’
My Dear Friends in Christ! If your heart is shaking at the images of destruction, like the boat with the Apostles in today’s Gospel, receive the Holy Communion, receive Jesus into your heart, and hear like he is saying to your heart: ‘Quite now! Be calm!’ Thank God that we don’t read the Jefferson Bible. We would miss on that.