Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
No human life is without times of crisis. This has been brought home to all of us during the course of the last ten months. For almost a year, no one has been able to avoid the health crisis that has struck the whole world. Work and leisure, family life and friendships, daily routines and major life events have all been affected. No human life has avoided this time of crisis.
Whilst we cannot deny the impact of the sadness, and the tragedies, of 2020, for many people the sadness has been rooted in inconvenience and frustration, rather than in real tragedy. Having said that, there are, of course, young people whose lives have been damaged by poverty, abuse, and interrupted education or leisure activities that can only be attributed to the Covid 19 pandemic. There are families that have had to cope with problems associated with employment, finance and housing … problems that were unknown to them prior to the introduction of lockdown and tiers. There are older people who are struggling with health and isolation issues that were unknown prior to March 2020. And … of course … there is the tragedy of Covid compliant separation. There are so many loved ones who have not been able to find the consolation of an embrace, or a kiss, or even a smile because of a universal crisis that none of us can really understand. And yet, there are still those who expend so much energy in fighting the ‘inconvenience’ rather than working with others to bring about a happier, mutually supportive world.
In today’s reading from Mark’s gospel Jesus, having just miraculously fed the five thousand, sent his disciples on ahead of him as he sought the time of prayer that had been denied him earlier in the day. Several of the disciples had been fishermen prior to following Jesus’ call to follow him. For them, sailing the few miles across the Sea of Galilee would not have been a challenge. As with our ‘normal’ pre-pandemic daily lives, so with their routine crossing of the beautiful inland lake which provided food and income for many. But … then came the storm …
Even the most experienced sailors know that some things can happen at sea which are far beyond their abilities to master. All seamen know that life-threatening situations can quickly blow up, apparently from nowhere. Modern-day medics and scientists, for all their sophisticated knowledge and experience, know that the storms of disease can be just as unpredictable and threatening as an unforeseen storm on a previously becalmed inland lake. Jesus saw the dangerous conditions that presented such a grave danger to his disciples; Jesus sees all that we are struggling against now. As Jesus calmed the storm for his disciples, so he can calm the storms that are raging in our hearts and minds. Jesus said to his disciples: Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid, then he got into the boat with them and the storm passed. If we listen carefully we will hear Jesus saying the same words to us as, at the same time, he offers to come on board and calm our storms.