The Storms of Life
The first Reading, (Job 38:1, 8-11), was taken from God’s responses to Job’s lamentations. We recall that Job was a wealthy man who had a caring family. He lived happily with his wife and ten children, (seven sons and three daughters), in the town of Uz. “… he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred she-donkeys, and many servants….”, (Job 1:1-21). Unfortunately, through natural disasters and raids by bandits, he lost all his children and herds. To add insult to injury, he contracted a chronic psoriasis which covered his entire body with sores.
Job’s wife who could no longer bear the tragedies that had befallen her family asked him to curse God and die; his friends believed that such calamities had befallen him as a consequent of his sins. Job protested his innocence to God while lamenting his situation:
I cry to you, and you give me no answer; I stand before you, but you take no notice. You have grown cruel to me, and your strong hand torments me unmercifully. You carry me away astride the wind and blow me to pieces in a tempest. Yes, I know that you are taking me towards death, to the common meeting-place of all the living, (Job 30:20.23).
In responding to Job’s lamentations, God reminded him that He was a creative and omnipotent God, (Gen 1:1-2:1), who kept the seas in check. Just as calm returns to the sea after a gale, so will the Lord bring healing and peace to our tumultuous lives. I acknowledge that some individuals and families will beckon on the Lord to be quicker in responding.
The Gospel, (Mk 4:35-41), was taken from the last section of Mark chapter four in which Jesus taught a large crowd beside the Sea of Galilee. There were many people eager to listen to the word of God that he had to sit on a floating boat while the crowd sat on the beach to listen to him. He taught the people in parables – the parable of the sower, the parable of the lamp, the parable of the seed growing by itself and the parable of the mustard seed. He became tired after a protracted period of teaching.
As evening approached, Jesus and his disciples paddled to another side of the sea to have a rest. This incident was also narrated in Mathew 8:23-27 and Luke 8:22-25 as well. While Jesus and his disciples were floating on the sea, “there began to blow a gale that the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped.” Jesus was asleep and his disciples became agitated because they thought that the boat would sink. In their desperation, they woke him up saying to him, “’Master, do you not care? We are going down!’” Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind and the sea and calmness was restored again. With the stillness of the wind and sea, Jesus’ disciples realised that a theophany had taken place. That Jesus was the Master of the wind and sea, for he was the Word through which creation took place, (Jn 1:1-3), and everything was created by him and through him and for him.” (Col 1:16).
From my experiences working in coastal parishes in Northwest Papua New Guinea, I can relate to the distress the disciples of Jesus had during the turbulent sea. At times I had to travel on the sea on a dinghy, (banana boat), to do ministry. During the ‘rough seas’, when we, (my travelling companions and myself), got into the boat I would ‘commit my spirit to God’ and, when we arrived safely at our destination, I would ‘retrieve it again from God’. While we were on deep sea, at times we would experience the waves breaking towards us with maximum intensity, that we were afraid it would sink the boat. I recall closing my eyes several times expecting the waves to break into the boat, but miraculously the boat would soar, and we would be floating on ‘a hill’ with the water down below. Sometimes the waves built up in a manner that it made us feel as if the boat were floating in a valley. By the time we got to our destination, everyone was fully wet from the battering we got from the sea waves. These experiences were terrifying.
These sea storms mirror the storms in our lives. It may be a shattered marriage or an abusive relationship, or a loss of employment due to Covid, or due to the liquidation of one’s company or inability to find employment, or bereavement, or betrayal by a bosom friend, or ill health, or being a victim of modern-day slavery or structural injustices or middle age crisis, or being addicted to drugs, alcohol, or going through chronic depression, or the inability to visit a loved one due to Covid, or the inability to hold the hands of a dying loved one due to Covid, or problems of loneliness.
These life storms are real and cannot be wished away. Recently, Naomi Osaka a talented young female tennis player who had won four Majors, withdrew from the French Open Tennis tournament because she was experiencing depression. Jesus did not promise us a world without hitches, but he promised to be with us through them all. It is through prayer, counselling, hard work and support from friends and relations that we shall overcome these storms of life. The Lord will always see us through because he said, ‘’come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest”, (Mt 11:28).
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp