| By Sister Mary Judith O'Brien, RSM

The Boat is Rocking and Shaking

Recall the story of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee when a storm came up. Meanwhile, the boat, already a few miles offshore was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. [Matthew 14:23] The disciples were even more terrified when they saw Jesus approach them on the water.  It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

This is a familiar Scripture passage, and we can readily visualize the scene. Saint Augustine described this scene in his own, powerful imagery:

Meanwhile the boat carrying the disciples – that is, the church – is rocking and shaking amid the storms of temptation, while the adverse wind rages on.  That is to say, its enemy, the devil, strives to keep the wind from calming down.  But greater is he who is persistent on our behalf, for amid the vicissitudes [troubles] of our life, he gives us confidence. He comes to us and strengthens us, so we are not jostled in the boat and tossed overboard.

Saint Augustine adds, “Therefore stay inside the boat and call upon God.” This saint encountered numerous storms in his own life as he was gradually converted to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Augustine warned against departing from Christ – from the Church - when we encounter howling wind and the rocking sea. Isn’t that warning still applicable today?

I can create my own howling wind by blurting out angrily, by taking advantage of another’s generosity, by violating the commandments.  Sometimes the howling wind is the commotion of others’ lives colliding with our own. These moments carry their own temptations – to unreasonably compromise; to respond with harshness; to avoid.  St. Augustine warns, “Stay inside the boat.” Call upon the Lord; do not try to hide from Him.

Our Lord comes across the choppy water to strengthen us frequently in the sacrament of Holy Communion and by  forgiving our sins in the sacrament of Penance. He also fortifies us through the Sacrament of Confirmation. And in a special way when we receive the Anointing of the Sick, he may heal us even from physical ailment. As we turn to the Lord, we are not jostled in the boat and tossed overboard.

1Saint Augustine, Sermon 25.4

Sister Mary Judith O'Brien, RSM is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma. She serves as chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw.