The wind whipped our faces and a steady rain fell as we stood aboard the simple fishing boat that had set sail on the Sea of Galilee. We were 10 Catholic journalists from across the U.S., there to learn about the Holy Land, and, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism hoped, tell our readers about the myriad inspiring sights so they would visit one day, too.
The blustery sea and rain-drenched notebooks did not bode particularly well for touristy articles, but our guide needn’t have worried: My mind — and surely that of my companions — turned quite naturally to the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus calms the sea.
Our Lord was in a boat with the disciples when a violent storm came up and threatened to sink the ship. The wind was howling and great waves had sloshed over the sides of the boat. In spite of this tumult — I can imagine the frightened Apostles shouting and crying out — Jesus was … sleeping.
Matthew tells us (25-27): “They came and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ He said to them, ‘Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?’ Then He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. The men were amazed and said, ‘What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?’”
I guess you might say we’re in one hell of a storm of our own right now, aren’t we? And I do use the word “hell” most deliberately here. Our enemy the devil is out to destroy faith and drag as many souls as possible to hell. Discouragement, division, deceit, despair — these are his methods.
Our boat, the Church, is being tossed about by scandal and division and some of us are terrified. Many have even abandoned ship. But what does the Gospel teach us? We are to turn to Jesus, to stir Him, as it were, and ask Him to save us.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted is calling us to do just that in a new video featured on a website created by the Phoenix Diocese, fidelity.dphx.org. Acknowledging the “disgust, confusion and even outrage,” many of us are feeling in the wake of the latest scandal (and cover-up by bishops and at least one former cardinal), Bishop Olmsted exhorts us to focus on Jesus.
“Together we must continue to go forth in our mission as disciples of Christ and faithful witnesses of His Gospel — always keeping our eyes fixed on Him,” the bishop says in the video. Catholics are invited to share their thoughts on the scandal through a questionnaire on the site. Bishop Olmsted will review the responses and share them with his fellow bishops.
Just as the disciples cried out to Jesus in the midst of the storm, we’re encouraged to do the same. Our ship the Church is being buffeted by gale-force winds, but she won’t sink. Our Captain has promised us.
Not so long ago, I stood aboard a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee again. This time, it was entirely different. The sun beat down on our shoulders and the sky was a brilliant shade of turquoise. J.D. Long-García, former editor of The Catholic Sun, pulled out his iPhone and read to us from Matthew’s account of the disciples’ boat being tossed about by the waves. My mind goes back to that day now as we wait for the storm in our Church to pass.
What sort of Man is this, whom even the winds and sea obey? It is Christ, the Lord, the Founder of our Church. Our Savior, who beckons us to fix our eyes on Him and rest in the sure knowledge that He is in control and will not let us drown.
We may get drenched, but if we stick with Him, we will arrive safely at that heavenly harbor our hearts yearn to see.