Lake Galilee can be a dangerous environment. Sudden storms come off the Mediterranean Sea, or over the Golan Heights. First-century Jews did not much like the sea. They left that to their neighbors to the north. But at least some of the disciples were fishermen, used to the changes and chances of being on the water. One might have expected Peter, James, and John to calm their friends, to assure them that the ship was lake-worthy and storms soon passed. Jesus slept. He had spent himself teaching thousands and feeding them with a few loaves and fishes. Now he rested and all his friends panicked.
|First reading and psalm: Job 38:1-11|
Ps. 107:1-3, 23-32
Alternate: 1 Sam. 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23) 32-49
Ps. 9:9-20 or 1 Sam. 17:57-18:5, 10-16
Ps. 133 • 2 Cor. 6:1-13 • Mark 4:35-41
Biblical scholars approach the feeding of thousands and their aftermaths — there are two accounts, each with different crowd estimations — as symbols of Christ’s mission to Israel and to the wider world. Of course some speculations of biblical scholars may approach the truth and some are wild guesses.
What would an early Christian have made of this story of Jesus sleeping while his friends panicked? What do we make of it as we exchange the Peace with our fellow parishioners? Early Christians had every reason to panic. They were in constant danger. The storm of intermittent, often irrational persecution blew up frequently, like a storm on the Galilean lake. A boat, an ark, symbolized for them the Church. They had all heard the gospel. They had come through the water of baptism. They were fed by the Eucharist. Yet when they felt overwhelmed by sin, persecution, loss, disease, it still felt as if Jesus slept. Mark wants to assure his readers that even in the most desperate moments, when the unexpected becomes painfully real, Jesus is there and he “wakes,” calms, and reminds us of the peace that passes all understanding and all expectations.
At least in America, there’s no general persecution to threaten Christtians’ lives. Christians in some parts of the world today are indeed so threatened. We should remember them when we mutter “peace” to the person we do not much like in the pew in front of us: ours is a “light affliction.” Yet we all know that our follies, weaknesses — yes, sins — can blow up in our faces suddenly, like a storm. We know that illness in ourselves or loved ones may well terrify us. Even the Church, our ship, is threatened “by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed.”
Together as the Church, we profess our belief, the belief of all on board, in the words of the Creed. Then, immediately we confess just how much all on board sin, fall short, jump overboard, fail God and our neighbor, and neglect the poor and needy. We confess that we are experiencing a perfect storm of remorse and bewilderment, of fear and distress, a feeling that Jesus sleeps, after which in the name and place of Jesus the priest announces that we are forgiven and prays that we may be kept in eternal life, that life given to us when we went through the water of baptism on our way to the Promised Land. Only then may we receive God’s peace and turn and share it, a symbol that we intend to “Go into the world to love and serve the Lord.”
In short, to receive peace and share peace, we must believe, confess, and receive forgiveness. God is ever merciful. He grants us the peace of being restored to him, over and over and over again. He bids us to be “instruments of that peace.” And in calling us to be fishers of men, he reminds us that fishermen are supposed to be used to storms.
Look It Up
Read the Confession and Absolution.
Think About It
As you hear the Peace, recollect its meaning and pass it intentionally.