Column: Storm at sea: a tale of two miracles

by Father Mike Stubbs

Hurricane season has begun. While those storms bring violent winds, they also include a point of calm, the eye of the storm, around which the winds swirl as a tropical cyclone.

Since a hurricane can extend over such a large area, the eye will typically measure 20 to 40 miles in diameter, although some have reached 200 miles in diameter.

It sounds contradictory for such a violent storm as a hurricane to also include a point of calm. But perhaps that can provide an insight into Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mk 4:35-41. The story takes place during a storm that has broken out while Jesus and the disciples are sailing on the Sea of Galilee.

While the storm is raging frantically outside, Jesus is fast asleep in the boat. His calm attitude contrasts dramatically with that of the disciples; after all, some of them were fishermen, notably Peter, James and John. They would have experienced similar weather at sea and should have known how to handle it. Their familiarity with the sea contrasts with Jesus, who most probably had worked as a carpenter, following the trade of his foster father Joseph.

The disciples should have been in control. They are the experienced seamen; Jesus is the landlubber. That is how the scene begins. The

Gospel tells us: “Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.” The disciples take Jesus in the boat, because they are sailing it. They are in control.

But they quickly lose control when the storm blows up and threatens to capsize the boat. In their fear, they wake Jesus and appeal to him for help. He rebukes the sea and calms the storm. Then he rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Jesus’ success in calming the storm greatly impresses the disciples. They wonder: “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

We might follow the example of the disciples in focusing upon this demonstration of power. It attracts our attention, just as the violent winds of a hurricane would attract more attention than the eye of the storm, the still point of calm.

But let us return to that moment when Jesus is peacefully sleeping, despite the storm raging around him. His complete trust in God, his total faith, allows him to ignore that storm. In light of that faith, the storm might as well not exist. The storm has no power over Jesus. Rather, Jesus is in complete control.

So, which is the greater miracle: Jesus’ calming of the storm or Jesus’ sleeping through it? Or is it possible to separate the two, any more than it is possible to separate the violent winds of a hurricane from the eye of the storm? Are they not part and parcel of the same thing? Do not both attest to Jesus’ power as Son of God?

“Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Leave a Reply