Why are you afraid?
Mark 4:40

Today’s Gospel reading relates the incident of the storm at sea which Jesus and his disciples experience as they “go across to the other side." 

Throughout the Bible the sea is associated with chaos, demonic powers, evil and a place of darkness. The sea in today’s Gospel threatens the peace and safety of Jesus’ disciples who are thrown into a state of fear as the waves beat against the boat and put their lives in danger. The Gospel reading like the rest of the Bible reminds us of God’s power to calm the sea and bring order out of chaos.

The fact that Jesus is in the boat with the disciples does not save them from the horrors of the storm. The same is true for us; because we are Christians there is no guarantee that we will not have storms in our lives. Jesus sails in the boat with us but storms are inevitable, storms will come and like the disciples in the Gospel there are times when we will ask, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?"

From time to time we will have experiences that are intimidating, expose us to danger, life threatening, painful, discomforting and difficult to bear. These situations cause us to fear and live in anxiety. This kind of fear is negative as it prevents us from being positive and weakens our ability to cope with the situation. Fear is a natural response to danger; it is part of the human experience. However, God is able to help us overcome our fear because he sails in the boat with us. We need faith to help us overcome our fears. In this context faith does not mean belief, it denotes trust in God. Faith in God is the prerequisite for overcoming our fears.

The story of the storm at sea reminds us of God’s power over the forces of evil and his ability to defeat the said forces. It teaches that God can bring order out of chaos. This story is a powerful reminder that God brings life into death like situations. It also echoes the teaching of the Psalmist, “God is our hope and strength
a very present help in trouble.... Be still then, and know that I am God.” This narrative makes the salient point that God comes to our help in time of need. Further, it enunciates an eternal truth, “God does not abandon us to our storms.”

The fact that God does not abandon us should calm our fears and give us peace of mind. This knowledge should help us to overcome our fears, anxieties and worries, which are always lurking at the door as we encounter storms and gales. When we meet our challenges we should be able to say with St. Paul, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). We can also identify with Paul in our storms as he writes from his prison cell, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV). Again, we can gain strength from Paul’s thinking and have peace of mind in all that we experience at the present time because “we walk by faith and not by sight.” However, if this is to be a source of strength we must not only say it, we must believe it.
In the second reading Paul writes, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” We share in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation; a very important component of this ministry is bringing peace to troubled situations.

God calls us to be messengers of peace and good news. If we are to fulfil this call we must live a life of trust in God’s divine providence and we must be people who are positive and optimistic. A very important part of our Christian witness is to bring life to people who are faced with death like situations. We must always give them a sense of hope, a message which reinforces God’s love and care for all his people.

As was mentioned above, part of our witness as Christians is to bring peace to troubled minds. There are many people in our society whose lives are broken and tormented by sickness, economic difficulties, domestic problems, a breakdown in relationships, spiritual problems and the like. To all of these people we must help them to find peace by sharing the message of the Good News, a message of God’s love.

Part of our ministry of reconciliation must help people to accept the realities that life brings and to cope with them by entrusting their lives to God. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). We must never fool people into believing that life will be easy and without it trials. Once we get into the boat with Jesus and cross over to the other side we will meet storms. However, we must instil in people that hope that all is not lost. A sense of confidence grounded in the belief that God has our interest at heart and that God will always be there for us. This is implied in his words to the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”

As we exercise our ministry of reconciliation and minister to people in their fears and worries, we must remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

                                                                                                                                      Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
                                                                                                                                      Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
                                                                                                                                      Where there is injury, pardon.
                                                                                                                                      Where there is doubt, faith.
                                                                                                                                      Where there is despair, hope.
                                                                                                                                      Where there is darkness, light.
                                                                                                                                      Where there is sadness, joy.

The nation will have its storms and challenges. The church will have its storms and challenges. We will have our storms and challenges.  We must not allow negative people to put negative thoughts in our minds; always remember that we walk by faith and not by sight. Live with the hope that God will do something great in our lives.

Do not be afraid.

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