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​The ever-unanswered question

· Meditation ·

Mark 4: 35-41

“Let us go across to the other side”, Jesus said to his disciples. But as evening fell “a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that so that the boat was already filling” (4:37). And what was Jesus the Teacher doing? He was asleep. Indeed, he was sleeping “on the cushion” as the Evangelist remarks, not without irony.

Iconographic workshop of Bose, “The Storm Calmed”

We are facing a marked contrast: the violent unleashing of the forces of nature emphatically oppose Jesus’ rest (might he have been so exhausted that he was not wakened by the squall?), the “great” storm to the “great calm”, the saving word of the Teacher to the “great” fear of the disciples: “Do you not care if we perish?” (4:38). They are desperate, they feel abandoned in the face of death, and if we are honest with ourselves we know that all fear is fundamentally always the fear of death. They had trusted Jesus, they had followed him while he was teaching the crowd that “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how” (Mk 4:26-27).

Jesus and his followers are together facing the darkness of the evening ploughing across the sea: they are passing from listening to his teaching in parables (cf. Mk 4:1-34), always explained to the disciples who ask in order to understand) to knowledge of the power that liberates us from the hidden dangers of evil. In fact immediately after our passage we read of the man possessed by an unclean spirit whom no one could bind, not even with chains, a man who runs to meet Jesus and is set free (cf. Mk 5:1-20).

Jesus silences the sea and the wind with the same power as that with which he chases out demons. His word produces liberation, creates salvation and restores life. It is an effective, trustworthy word. God’s authority is recognized in Jesus. “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” (4:39). And this cannot but fill them with great “awe” and open up questions.

“Then he said to them ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’” (4:40). The disciples are always recognized as people with frail faith, and yet through being with the Teacher they have an opportunity not to remain stuck in their failings, not to stop at their littleness, and to start anew.

As usual Jesus once again puts a question to his followers – and to us with them – as if to say: question your fear, give a name to your fears; and seek to deepen, to refine and to establish firmly your faith, your confidence and your trust, asking yourselves on whom it rests. Fear and faith. For fear and faith dwell in our lives, and the way in which we seek to live them reveals the fibre of our humanity. To glimpse faith in the Resurrection, we cannot but pass through death, fear, wonder and fright, like the women at the tomb (cf. Mk 16:1-8).

Jesus always refers to our faith and trust, to our capacity for believing, he creates it, because in each one of us some seeds of trust dwell, perhaps the hope of being able to “en-trust” ourselves, even beyond our own conscious awareness. To the woman “in fear and trembling” he said shortly afterwards, “Daughter, your faith has made you well”, and to the ruler [of the synagogue] who was imploring him, Jesus said “Do not fear, only believe” (Mk 5, 34, 36).

Our account ends by leaving a question unanswered. The disciples “were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’” (4:41). This is the question of Jesus’ identity, which accompanies us throughout the Gospel and pervades our lives as believers, in our not having more and more faith.

Let us therefore remember that in our evenings, passing through the darkness of our days, we can seek and recognize the Good News, the Gospel that is Jesus. And with him we can recognize who we are, who we are called to be, and who we have beside us, passing through our fears and strengthening our faith, confirming our readiness to entrust ourselves and to become trustworthy people.

The Sisters of Bose




St. Peter’s Square

Dec. 8, 2019