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Calming the Sea of Galilee – A Reflection on Mark 4:35-41

By Rev. Br. John Albert, S.G., Local Superior

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, 1632.

Why did Mark decide to write about the above event? What was the immediate cause? And what was the evangelist’s objective in writing?

I invite you to put on the 3D glass. It is like entering the Cinema to watch a 3-dimension movie. Be ready for dramatic motions, shocks, surprises and suspense.

The audience of that time were some Jews and Gentile converts to Christian Faith in Rome. It was a time of great persecution, suffering and distress under the Roman Emperor Nero. Peter the Apostle was himself in prison and Christians were thrown into prison, burnt and thrown to the wild beasts.

Mark brings to the little flock in Rome a life-threatening moment, the experience of Peter and the other disciples of Jesus in the boat journey getting across the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

Mark was animating the grief-stricken community to look beyond the present sufferings. That evil in whatever does not have the final word. The community is asked to persevere in their faith of following the Christ Way.

This particular gospel event of Jesus Calming the Sea of Galilee is placed before us as a source of encouragement as the whole world is facing the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“Rejoice that you have escaped the manifold perils and shipwrecks of this storm-tossed world.” St. Bruno

Christ the Lord

To grasp the awesome power Christ displays in this scene, we need to activate our imagination. Few situations leave men so helpless as storms at sea. The Lake of Galilee, where the disciples were sailing in this case, is still known for the violence of its squalls, which arise and subside rapidly and unpredictably due to its peculiar geographical situation. In the midst of these gales, the forces of nature unleash their full, terrifying force, and human fragility is nakedly exposed.

St. Mark makes it quite clear that the disciples feared for their lives, so we can safely infer that this storm was no minor agitation. That a mere word from the Lord reins in nature’s primeval brawn shocks the helpless fishermen even more than the stormy lake had frightened them just moments before. They had seen his miracles, they had heard his wisdom, they had witnessed his power over the human heart, but to see the unruliest powers that flow through the bowels of the universe submit like a well-trained golden retriever – this was a Lordship they had not yet even conceived of; this is Christ our Lord.

Christ the Teacher

“Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?” What is the lesson here? Was it unreasonable for the disciples to be afraid? Was it cowardly for them to wake up their leader when it seemed like they were going to perish? It wasn’t unreasonable, nor was it cowardly, but it showed a lack of faith. They did not trust in him completely. They still thought it would be possible to sink, even though Christ himself was in their boat; they still thought that something (in this case, the forces of nature) was more powerful than the love of God.

Christ the Friend

He was in our boat. He was with us when we encountered a storm. He came to our rescue when we had nowhere else to turn… How often I remembered this experience in the years that followed. It always spoke to me so powerfully – and it always made such an impression on people who were hearing about the Lord for the first time! It was an image for me of the life of every Christian. Christ is always with each one of us, and he has the power to protect us from every evil, to bring us safely through the most trying of times. Although sometimes he seems to be asleep in our boat while our lives are swirling in a hurricane of struggles and confusion, he is truly there.

Christ in My Life

Your power and majesty come across so vividly in the Gospels, Lord. Why don’t I think more often about your greatness? You are the Creator and Lord of the entire universe; you gave the proton its weight and the electron its charge; you inspire every artist and strengthen every saint. Blest be your name throughout the earth! Thank you for calling me to follow you. Even the wind and sea obey you, Lord. How foolish I am to resist you! I want to want what you want, because you want it, in the way you want it, for however long you want it. With the will of your heart, govern my heart.

You are in my boat; you are in my heart. As I stumble through life, trying to live out my responsibilities as you would have me, trying to discover your will in every storm, you are with me. I believe it, Lord, but help my weak faith! I won’t say “Don’t you care?” because I know you do care. But I will say: Convince my heart that you care, so I can be free to love as you love…

• Have the waters of the sea of life threatened you sometimes?

• Who saved you?

• What is the agitated sea of the community in our time?

• What is the agitated sea for us today in the context of COVID-19?

This reflection was first published on MA-SG Newsletter, Issue June 2020.

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