Friday, July 15, 2005

Still at Sea

Perhaps today we will conclude our oceanic reflections for the time being. We’ve looked at the restless surface and the quiet depths of the sea, but we haven’t done much sailing yet, so there’s still room for a nautical meditation. Several Gospel stories take place on the open waters, and I’d like to look briefly at Jesus’ stilling the storm at sea.

The purpose of recounting the calming of the storm is to of
fer a more or less rhetorical question concerning the divinity of Jesus: “Who is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” Who indeed! He is the One who made heaven and earth, the seas and all they contain. But what does this miracle tell us about us? We’re always interested in that subject.

Let’s se
e what happened there. Jesus was with his disciples in the boat, asleep. He must have been quite exhausted if He could sleep through a storm as the boat was violently tossed around. Or maybe He was sleeping with “one eye open,” just waiting to see how the disciples would react to the situation. In any case, they freaked out: “Master, don’t you care if we perish?!” Jesus unhurriedly got up, instructed the wind and waves about more considerate behavior, and sat back down as calm ensued. “Where is your faith?” He inquired. The dumbfounded disciples then began to reassess their speculations on the nature of their Master.

Why did Jesus and the disciples react to the storm in different ways? Why did the disciples panic and how did Jesus keep his cool? It has to do with the state of one’s inner life, and this is the connection to us. The disciples, when becoming aware of the storm that was outside of them, allowed its restless turmoil to come inside of them. Hence the panic. The exterior storm became an interior one. Jesus, on the other hand, was already filled with inner peace and strength. Rather than letting the exterior storm rattle his interior life, He sent out his inner peace on the outer storm. Thus his interior peace manifested itself in his outer environment.

If we have the peace of Christ within us, we can work similar miracles. Let’s say you find yourself in the midst of arguing people or of some other stressful situation. Are you going to let that outer disturbance and disharmony enter you, so that the turmoil casts out your peace and you become just like them? Or are you going to send forth your inner peace on to the raging waves of the outer conflict in order to calm the storm? We have that choice: letting outer stresses become inner ones, or creating outer peace by consciously willing (and invoking God’s help) that the peace of Christ within us will be manifest around us. It’s not merely a manipulation of psychological or social dynamics. It’s a way of bringing the presence of Christ to a situation that was lacking it, a way of trusting that Jesus still has power over the “wind and waves” of human unrest.

Where is your faith? You may find it anew as you confidently awaken the “sleeping” Jesus within you and introduce Him to whatever storm may be raging around you. Be still and know that He is God. And the stillness will spread out over the sea.