Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time – Mk 4:35-41
In today’s Gospel, Mark gives us two small details, and yet they help us to understand the big picture of the importance of trusting in Jesus and His love for us. So, today, let’s look at these two details, and then how they relate to the important incident of the calming of the storm.
The first detail comes as Mark describes how the disciples took Jesus into the boat: “They took Jesus with them in the boat just as He was . . . just as He was.” If the Bible were just like any other book, maybe we could just ignore that detail, that Jesus got on the boat just as He was. However, the Bible’s primary author is God Himself, and so God Himself wanted that detail there.
So, we can ask ourselves: what does that mean, “just as He was”? Well, we know He was certainly tired, because He fell right asleep on the boat. He was probably hungry, and thirsty, and sweaty. He probably felt a lot like us after a long day at work or of watching over our families. It’s easy for us to forget that when Jesus embraced our human nature, He became like us “in all things but sin.” Jesus knows what it’s like to be tired, to be hungry, to be thirsty, to be worn out and ready for rest. When there are problems in our lives, we know that Jesus, too, saw the problems of life back in His days: He certainly saw the problems of sin and vice, of hatred and anger, of poverty and hunger . . . He saw all of these things, and, yes, He even had to suffer from them Himself.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how Jesus’ life was. Yet, in the midst of it, He never broke His constant communion with His Father in heaven. We can ask ourselves: do we try to live constantly in God’s presence, in spite of the business of this world?
The second detail that we find is that, as the disciples put their boat out to sea, Mark notes that “other boats were with him.” These other boats aren’t ever mentioned again; they’re just there, and presumably they survive the storm too. The question then arises: why are there other boats? What are they there for, and what difference do they make? In an old commentary, Saint John Chrysostom writes that Jesus wanted others to witness the miracle of the calming of the storm, but didn’t want them to see the disciples’ lack of faith, and so He allowed other boats to follow them out. Building on this, Saint Bede wrote that those other boats represent those who believe in Christ, and don’t allow themselves to be tossed about by doubts in the midst of the storms of this world. This detail places us right in the midst of the Gospel events, and really leads into the story’s focal point.
Now, today, we aren’t able to see Jesus face-to-face, as the Apostles could. Yet, when times got tough, even though they had Jesus right there with them, the Apostles doubted; they refuse to believe, and instead became worried and panicked. The French priest Jean d’Elbee gives a beautiful commentary on this scene, and relates it to our lives, and the unbounded confidence that Jesus asks of us. He writes:
What does Jesus lament most when He is with His Apostles? Their lack of confidence. “Men of little faith!” This is the main reproach He makes to them. He does not say them, “Men of no character, men without energy, without discipline” [even though they might lack these things]. No, he says, “Men of little faith!”
Jesus was crossing the lake of Tiberias in a boat with His disciples. He was asleep in the stern. A great windstorm blew up, and the waves poured into the boat so that it was already filled. Seized with anguish, the disciples awakened Jesus: “Lord, save us; we are perishing!” And rising up, He reprimands the wind and says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” and the wind abated and there was a great calm. Then, turning to His Apostles, He asks, “Where is your faith?” I can hear Jesus scolding them with gentleness, but with pain, too: “Why is this? I was in the boat with you – I slept, but I was there – and you were afraid; you were terrified. You doubted either my omnipotence or my love. Do you not know after all who I am, and do you not know after all with what tenderness my Heart watches over you continually?” It is truly such doubt that pains and offends Him most.
But you see, we have lost so completely the notion of the entire confidence that He expects of us, that we sometimes make a prayer of the words for which He reproached His Apostles: “Lord, save us; we are perishing!”
This is not how we should pray, but rather, “With you, Jesus, I cannot perish; You are always in the boat with me; what have I to fear? You may sleep; I shall not awaken You. My poor nature will tremble, oh yes! But with all my will I shall remain in peace in the midst of the storm, confident in You.”
In hours of anguish, think of the Divine Master calming the violent storm with one word. This will be a tremendous source of comfort for you as you wait – peacefully – for Him to waken. The great tempest is what our sins stir up in our souls. It is there that Jesus must arise in order that “a great calm may descend.”
“In hours of anguish, think of the Divine Master calming the violent storm with one word.” The world never leaves us alone, and there will always be struggles, temptations, fears, worries, and the like. But we must not fear; Jesus has overcome the world. He knows what it is like to human, He knows what it is like to suffer. He lived as a man among the men and women of His day; He knows what life is like, since He has seen first-hand the joys and sorrows, the blessings and the sins, the love and the hatred, that run around our world. Even though we cannot see Him face to face, like the Apostles could, we can trust in Him with the same confidence that the Apostles should have had. We can ask ourselves: how much confidence and trust do we have in God? Do we trust that He can calm all of our worries with a word? Do we believe that, even when He seems to be sleeping, He is there, watching over us and guiding our steps?
Today, as we celebrate the re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, let us ask for the grace, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Faith, to truly trust in Jesus and in His Sacred Heart that watches over us continuously.