“I was afraid of the storm, and since Jesus calmed storms, I came to be with Him.” (Saint Thomas Aquinas).
A few weeks ago, during Mass, I heard the beautiful Gospel of Saint Mark that described Christ calming the storm (Mark, 4:35-41). In the Gospel, we are told that the disciples were afraid during the storm and woke Christ, who calmed it for them…
“They took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do you not care if we perish?’ And He awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’” (Mark, 4:35-41).
I have been thinking of this Gospel ever since that day when I heard it. I cannot seem to move it from my mind. And it is not the storm that stays fixed in my mind, or the panic of the disciples – though I have weathered many storms in my life and have often panicked in fear – it is the sleeping Christ, who I cannot seem to forget.
Why did He sleep?
Upon reflection, it appears that there are only two possible reasons why Christ would have slept through such a storm as that…
The first reason is that He was weary. He was possibly even weary unto the point of death. He was probably so tired from the action of His ministry that His sleep was so essential to Him that He could not humanly avoid it any longer. I have felt that bone weariness myself. After delivering my first child with a very long labour, hospital policy was that my husband was not allowed to stay the night to help me. As he left the hospital that night at around midnight (a couple of hours after tat baby was born) our son started crying, and he did not stop until well into the following week! During those long hours of the very first night with him, I really did think that I would die of exhaustion, having not slept since 3am that day when everything had begun and having gone through the shocking reality of labour for the first time. In fact, it was only when I placed the child into his cradle and buzzed the nurses refusing to carry him because I was literally dropping him from utter exhaustion, that one kindly African nurse wrapped him up for me and laid him on my arm so that we could both have a little rest. If it were not for her kindness, I do not think I would have made it through the night! So, I can only imagine the sort of tiredness that would cause my Beloved to sleep through such a storm as that.
The second reason was that Christ trusted God! And He trusted in God’s providence to the point of FEARLESSNESS. He was DEEPLY ASLEEP. He was asleep like a baby. For my Beloved knows God perfectly – because He IS God. And so, He knows that there is nothing to fear because EVERYTHING happens for the GOOD. Why would He ever be afraid if He knew – and knew deeply – that nothing bad could ever really happen because everything is turned for the GOOD?
I am not a comfortable flyer. Every time I get into an aeroplane, I must consciously force myself to relax so that I can undertake the journey without panicking. But though I am an uneasy flyer, I am not an irrational one. And so, when I sit on an aeroplane, I buckle up, empty my mind, and watch the flight attendants. While the flight attendants have a smile on their faces and run up and down those aisles as though everything is right as rain, I am calm – uncomfortable – but calm. But if one day, I have the misfortune of being on a flight where the flight attendants look frazzled, well then, I shall be very very worried indeed!
And this reminds me of the disciples in that storm. How panicked they were. There was Christ – God Himself – sleeping through the storm. And instead of fixing their eyes on Him and taking their cue from Him, they panicked. Pure and simple. And in their panic, they turned away – watching the storm instead of their flight attendant on that journey. They were watching the storm instead of God… And that is where all the trouble started.
When he was a child, Saint Thomas Aquinas was a boarder at school run by the friars of Montecasino. Once, while he was boarding there, there was a terrible storm during the night. The friar who was supervising the boys at night, could not find Saint Thomas in his room when he went in to check on him. After searching for him, he found the little boy in the chapel hugging the Tabernacle. “What are you doing here?” The friar asked.
Saint Thomas replied, “I was afraid of the storm, and since Jesus calmed storms, I came to be with Him.”
With this example before me, I dare to fix my eyes firmly on my sleeping Lord. For I follow the advice of Saint Padre Pio… “Stay in the boat in which Our Lord has placed you, and let the storm come. You will not perish. It appears to you that Jesus is sleeping, but let it be so. Don’t you know that if He sleeps, His heart vigilantly watches over you?”
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.