Jesus doesn’t calm every storm; some serve a purpose

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily at the Arkansas Catholic Men’s Conference Feb. 1 at Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

There is no part of the world exempt from disasters. We have tornados, drought and wildfires. Other places have hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes and mudslides, and these are just the natural disasters.

The worst disasters are those caused by humans, for instance war, persecution, genocide, racism, ethnic conflict and economic exploitation. But as we see in the Scriptures, Jesus is more powerful than any disaster.

In today’s Gospel it is a natural disaster that threatens. His disciples had been fishermen and so they were very familiar with storms on the Sea of Galilee, but this storm was more than even they could handle and they used boats for a living. But it wasn’t more than Jesus could handle. When all hope seemed to be lost, he stood up and calmed the storm.

No person who lives long enough makes it through this life without eventually having to face storms too powerful to handle on their own. Some of these are personal disasters more devastating than anything nature could ever send our way.

Don’t raise your hands, but how many of you have ever been through a stormy divorce or been in a situation where you felt trapped and alone and unable to defend yourself? At the mercy of the winds, so to speak, maybe a helpless victim of gossip or false rumors?

Many of us have someone we love who is mentally ill or addicted to drugs or alcohol and it’s too much to handle. Others of us may have not-yet-healed inner wounds caused by mortal sins that we ourselves committed and now regret bitterly, for instance lifelong remorse for having had a role in the killing of an unborn child. How many of us have children with big problems in part because of our neglect, abuse or bad example when they were little and highly impressionable? Storms that have kept your life in turmoil for years.

Well, Jesus is more powerful than those storms too.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was apparently so tired that it looked like he was going to just sleep right through the storm that was about to capsize their boat, so his disciples woke him, shouting, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

And as it turns out, not only did he care, he was able to do something about it. He calmed that storm because calming that storm served God’s purposes.

His disciples discovered something new about Jesus. “They were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?’”

But Jesus does not calm every storm because sometimes it is the storm itself that serves God’s purposes. That’s the mystery of the cross! Most of the disciples saved that day from drowning would one day die a martyr’s death, perish in a different kind of storm, but a storm nonetheless.

When we embrace suffering that serves God’s purposes, the sacrifices we have to make may be very great and even tragic. But unlike other storms, these storms that are the price of faithfulness do not lead to disaster — far from it.

When you embrace with love whatever cross God has picked out specifically for you, that cross becomes redemptive —in your own life and in the lives of others. As we see in today’s Gospel, sometimes it serves God’s purposes to calm storms when we cry out to him for help.

But there are also plenty of other times when the storm itself serves God’s purposes and faithfulness to him requires us simply to embrace that cross with love. In either event — when he calms the storms and when he doesn’t — our attitude should always be one of trust and our intentions pure as we face whatever adversity comes our way.

This is what we prayed for in our responsorial psalm when we said “Create a clean heart in me O Lord,” thereby asking God to purify our hearts and equip us to be courageous leaders, especially since we know that no storm is too much for Jesus to handle.

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