This morning I was reading about will and intention as it affects our feelings and allows us to stay steady, conscious of our strength in times of trouble. Then I read the gospel for today which is the story of the storm at sea (Mk 4). Jesus is sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat when the wind comes up. The disciples think they’ll surely drown and can’t imagine how Jesus can be so “unconscious” of the situation. Unable to contain themselves, they wake him up asking, “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” His question back (after he calms the wind) is two-fold: 1. “Why are you terrified?” and 2. “Do you not yet have faith?”
Those are questions to be pondered today. The disciples had already seen examples of the power Jesus had over physical circumstances – the feeding of the 5,000, for instance. It would seem that they would have faith in him and his ability to calm the storm by then. But he seemed to be asleep. Their faith was centered in outer awareness – of the wind, the waves and their feelings of fear. They were unable to reach deep enough into themselves for the conviction that Jesus was, in fact, able to deal with this situation internally. What would have happened if they had not awakened him?
There are lots of ways to think about this situation. We could, with what we know about Jesus, assume that he would have eventually awakened and calmed the storm in whatever way seemed appropriate. (“Was it just a test for the disciples,” some of us might ask?) The disciples could have calmed down, breathed deeply and touched into the place inside themselves where faith in Jesus lived and terror could not touch them. Or they could just have surrendered to the moment and to their fate as we must in some of the storms in our lives from which it seems we will not emerge alive. True surrender comes from a conviction that God is with us in every moment, whatever the outcome of events. We will experience many small deaths during our lifetime – of failure, humiliation, broken relationship, misfortune of any kind – and still we live to see another day, hopefully more prepared for the final death that will, in fact, take us out of this world some day. So why not practice embracing these smaller deaths with the strength of faith, will and intention? In that way, we will eventually not be swayed by the terror of possible outcomes. Rather, we will have faith in the knowledge that God never abandons us but companions us in and through it all.