Gospel of Mark 4:35-41
Fifteen years ago my aunty Peggy died in England and according to her wish she was cremated and her ashes were posted home to my mother who kept the little box on a small table in the sitting room, covered with a white cloth with a candle lighting in front of it. Peggy’s remains rested there until we brought her to be buried in Aran as was her desire.
It was a blustery day when we set out on the ferry for Aran. Most people went below deck to take shelter from the weather but I stayed up on deck with my young cousin Sarah. I’ve learnt that it’s better to remain up on deck especially when the sea is rough. And it got very rough indeed with waves crashing over the top of the boat but I was in a safe position and had a firm grip on the steel bar of a seat.
What I experience on the sea in a storm is an overwhelming sense of the love of God, the majesty of who God is, even the fearsomeness of who God is; a reality that deserves the greatest respect; a reality that I find to be incredibly liberating. It is in such moments that I feel most fully alive.
At one stage in the crossing a large wave struck the right hand side of the boat, causing her to tilt dangerously to one side, but I knew she wasn’t going to keep tilting, that she wasn’t sinking. However, what the people down below saw was water rising up to cover the windows and in their sight the boat had turned over on her side and was about to sink. When the boat returned to a relatively even keel I went down to check on my mother and she was white as a sheet with the fright.
We all experience terrible storms in our lives and sometimes it is necessary to shelter from the storms but sometimes also it is necessary for us to stand up in the midst of the storm, to face it and experience what it is doing to us, and to try to find the mystery of God’s presence in the storms that we experience.
Throughout the storms that I have experienced in my life – one of the worst being the terrible storm of grief when the one I loved so much is taken in death – what I have found is that the strongest thing I can hold onto, the thing that keeps me secure is not a thing but the person of Jesus himself. Most often I’m not able to pray during the storms of life except to call out the name of Jesus and the name of Jesus is very powerful, especially when we have nothing else to cling to and it is good for us to call out the name of Jesus as a prayer because there, in Him, is the fullness of God’s presence, the fullness of God’s power.
We all know the experience of the apostles in the boat – there is Jesus sound asleep in the middle of this terrible ordeal and our experience often is that God is very silent and seems to be asleep when we are going through very difficult times. It is important that we cry out and that we rouse Him by our need and by our faith.
The name of Jesus is a very powerful name. What He does in the gospel today He ultimately does in our lives. He stands up and He speaks His Word to the storm and the turmoil and He says these beautiful words, “Quiet now! Be calm!” These words I have also found to be very helpful in my ordeals, allowing Jesus to speak them over the seemingly endless trouble of life, to let these words sink into my heart and into my soul.
We think these days of the parents of the young people who died in the Berkeley tragedy, the parents of Lorcán Miller and the terrible storm that has been unleashed in their lives. The parents of Patrick Kevin Pierce know what this storm is like – Patrick Kevin died 10 years ago on this day aged 22. We hold all of these parents in prayer and it is important that we as a community hold them because when the storm breaks people have nothing to hold onto very often, so I would like today that we would say the prayer on their behalf, hold them here in prayer, that the word of Jesus would be spoken over their grief; that they would find in Him eventually the calm, the peace and the consolation they need.
If you wouldn’t mind now closing your eyes and we’ll enter into that silent space within ourselves and, first of all, if you are experiencing any storm, just let Jesus speak those words to your trouble, “Quiet now! Be calm!” And for all the grieving parents we ask Jesus to speak that same word over their grief, into their hearts, “Quiet now! Be calm!” Let those words be in every breath we take and let them fill us to the very depths of our being. And finally we pray these words over all of our fathers on this Fathers Day and especially fathers who are experiencing any turmoil, that they too may hear the word of Jesus, “Quiet now! Be calm!”
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit!
Eamonn Monson sac