HOMILY WEEK 13 02 – Year II

Weathering Life’s Storms with Faith:

(Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12; Ps 5; Mt 8:23-27)


Have you ever been caught in a storm while boating?

Today’s readings invite us to trust that Jesus can help us weather any storm in our lives.

I remember one incident years ago on Lac La Plonge in northern Saskatchewan when the wind was so strong and the lake so rough that the boat I was driving was actually being blown backwards. We had to duck behind an island and luckily were able to return to shore in a bay to wait out the storm. That memory still stirs up feelings of dread as I realize how close we were to a major disaster.

Calming of the Storm

I can empathize with the disciples in the boat with a sleeping Jesus as they cried out to him, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And I remember the late Métis Sr. Therese Arcand SGM recounting this story as only she could, placing great emphasis on the sudden dead calm and peace that reigned after Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea to the amazement of the disciples.

This passage played a key role in my life during a retreat I made at the Benedictine monastery at Muenster after being named to the episcopacy. I woke up on the first day suddenly filled with dark, powerful emotions of fear, dread and anxiety. What had I just said “yes” to? How would I be able to carry out this monumental new task? As I searched among the passages my spiritual director had given me to pray over, I came across and chose this gospel passage, as it seemed to fit my situation precisely.

I will never forget that hour of prayer. When I thought about the unknown and unfamiliar task that lay before me, waves of dread, fear, anxiety and sadness would wash over me, threatening to drown me. I felt like I was perishing. Then when I prayed the words of this passage, little by little, feelings of peace, serenity, confidence and calm would assert themselves into my spirit. Back and forth it went, like waves ebbing and flowing, for a whole hour, until at the end of that hour – there was only a dead calm and peace. I could hardly believe it and had to pinch myself to see if it was real. And it was – I felt ready for whatever would come, including a serious complication that arouse during the retreat which I was able to handle with ease. This was such a significant spiritual experience for me that I included it as a story entitled “With Jesus in our Boats” in the book Drumming From Within that I later wrote.

The prayer of the disciples, “Lord, save us!” is a reminder of another form of prayer and act of faith in Jesus that I call the Prayer of the Anawim. Anawim is a Hebrew word meaning a poor person who knows he or she needs God in their lives.  They have no pretensions and place their simple trust in God each day.

That is actually the prayer St. Peter learned in another incident on the Sea of Galilee when he asked Jesus to “make him come to him on the water.” At Jesus’ bidding, Peter had the faith to step out of the boat and actually walk on water. During our Eucharist on a boat on the Sea of Galilee one year on pilgrimage, I marveled that Peter had actually walked on that lake! But when he got, I think, a bit proud, took his eyes off Jesus, looked back at the boat to show off a little to his companions, felt the wind and started to sink, his prayer changed – now it was those same three words coming from not his head but his heart – “Lord, save me!” and Jesus was there to lift him up and chide him for his doubt and weak faith.

That prayer, sincerely asking for help, is the prayer of the Anawim. Now what do you think Peter did next? Tell Jesus he could manage on his own again, or hang on to Jesus and together with him walk back to the boat? I am convinced it was the latter. And that is what we are invited to do – to start off each day with the awareness that we cannot live that day the way God wants us to, joyful and free, without the strength provided us by Jesus. Then we can be like the mystic Julien of Norwich, who taught us that with faith in Jesus, all will be well, and in the end, all manner of being will be well.

In the first reading, the prophet Amos tries to warn the stubborn Israelites of the impending storm in their lives because of their lack of faith and infidelity to the covenant. In their prosperity, Israel’s moral standards had collapsed. The rich oppressed the poor, might made right, and corruption ran rampant. Even worse, the people fell into idolatry and worshipped foreign gods. Amos had to warn the people of the impending disaster and urge them to return to their senses and back to faith in God.

The Eucharist makes present the unwavering love of God shown to us by Jesus on the Cross. May our celebration help us awaken to the presence of God within us, teach us to live and to see at a deeper level, and live in basic trust rather than fear, so we can withstand even the most frightening storms.


Updated: July 2, 2024 — 2:51 am

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