Today’s gospel (MT 8: 23-27) presents us with the story of Jesus in a boat with his disciples, sleeping while everyone else is awake and intensely frightened that they are on the verge of drowning. In earlier translations I don’t ever recall the word “terrified” in the response of Jesus when they woke him, saying (probably shouting), “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” As he often did, he answered their fear with a question. In my recollection, it was always: “Why are you so frightened (or afraid), O you of little faith?”
Musing on the shift of just one word, I wonder about the translation I am reading. Are the translators pointing to the more tumultuous times we live in and trying to emphasize that danger? Is there new scholarship that finds a closer meaning for the word fear? Should we – with 2,000 years of living in the Christian Era – have more faith in Christ to save us or are the hazards of life reason enough to keep us terrified? What if we did drown – or die in a plane crash? Are we trusting enough in God to be there in that moment?
This may all sound like a ridiculous set of questions but the phrase that Jesus uses to address to his friends in the question is really key to the entire lesson. “O you of little faith…”
How we are able to face our fears is, for me, the question of the day. Believing that God is with us in all ways each day is a necessary component, it would seem, of each response. No easy task…rather the work of a lifetime for some. Practice and prayer seem to me to be the only way to strengthen our capacity to maintain peace of heart whatever comes our way.