Storms are a reality that we know well in Southeast Louisiana. Some of you may be experiencing personal storms. Maybe someone you know has recently died or is sick or has been going through a crisis. Maybe you are going through a crisis. These are storms. All of us have witnessed the violent storms in Charleston. Closer to home, on Saturday, Daryle Holloway, a New Orleans police officer, was killed. Our hearts can get stormy in these moments. Anger. Sadness. Doubt.
We might cry out as the disciples did, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38). Why doesn’t God wake up and do something to prevent Charleston or the violence, murder, and racism in our city? Or do something to end suffering all together?
Job gives voice to our distress. Job is a man of faith. But even when he loses everything except his life, he refuses to curse God. However, Job accuses God of being unjust. We hear Job say, “You [God] have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me. You lift me up on the wind, you make me ride on it, and you toss me about in the roar of the storm”(Job 30:21-22). Job accuses God of not playing fair.
We hear God’s response speaking out of the storm. God says, “Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb?” (Job 38:8). To paraphrase, “Did you make the world Job?” God isn’t saying, “Job, I don’t care about your questions. Don’t bother me.” Rather, we might hear God saying, “What I have planned for you is so great you can’t understand it now.”
Job could have taken God’s answer and responded “Yeah right, that’s easy for you to say. Well, count me out. I don’t want to have any part in your life.” But Job doesn’t say that. He repents for his hardness of heart. “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42: 3, 5).
Wow. Job was radically humbled and open to allow God’s power to manifest itself in weakness, in utter poverty. In the storm, can we hear God inviting us even deeper into his arms? Can we trust him? Can we trust God?
In the storm that is breaking over the boat of the disciples, it is Jesus’ voice that speaks. “Quiet! Be still!” (Mk 4:39). The disciples would expect their “teacher” to invoke the help of God to stop the storm but Jesus doesn’t ask God. He speaks. We just heard God say so to Job that only God has command over the storms. So when Jesus says things without invoking God and does things only God can do, Jesus is revealing his identity. God is with us. We can trust God because God is with us in the storm. Jesus is the Word become flesh dwelling among us.
But if Jesus stopped the storm for the disciples, why doesn’t he stop all the storms? What about Charleston? The violence on our streets and in our hearts?
He quieted the storm for the disciples to reveal who he is. His identity is Good News. Because if he is who he says he is, then we can sing “Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting” in the storm (Ps 107:1). If he is God, then we can turn to him in the storm.
Jesus is still with us in the Boat of the Church although we may not see him like the disciples did. We can turn to him not as a magician to make pain go away. He is the Son who redeems pain guiding us through suffering into the open arms of the loving Father. God wants to give us something so great we can’t possibly understand it now. And we see that greatness raised up in Jesus today at this Holy Mass. St. Paul says it beautifully, “Behold, new things have come” (2 Cor 5:17). Jesus shows us what the new creation looks like.
We can help extend the new creation into the violence of the old creation by willingly laying down our lives into the arms of the Father. We can say to him, “Father, I bring you this grief, anger, doubt, disgust, and I don’t want to get rid of them; I want to invite you into them to make them new. Please calm the storm but not my will but yours be done.” We respond to anger with concrete acts of forgiveness. We have seen a beautiful witness of this from the families of the 9 victims in Charleston who offered Dylann Roof forgiveness. Why would anyone do this? Because we no longer live for ourselves but for him who for our sake died and was raised (cf. 2 Cor 5:15).
Jesus gives his life into the arms of the Father to show us how to act in the storm and to always be personally—Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity—the Way into Holy Communion with God. Jesus is God’s response, God’s Word spoken in the storm, to each of us to bring us into a peace that sets our hearts on fire with love.