Through the Storms


Dear POP Folks,
Much like his fellow Jesuit Pope Francis, Father James Martin has a wonderful gift for weaving his own experience into history and even theology.  His "My Life with the Saints" has been great reading for many of us.

His latest book is entitled simply "Jesus" and is a narrative of Father's reluctant trip to the Holy Land.   The story of his personal relationship with God mingles with his studies and life experiences to provide a unique telling of the life and actions of Jesus in his short time on earth.  It's a readable book, even though Father Martin occasionally quotes in Greek, but then only so that he can translate it and give us new insights into the text.

One of his chapters is built around Mark 4:35-41, the story of Jesus taking a nap in the boat while a huge storm was raging and the Apostles were freaking out.  Father Martin takes the opportunity to talk about nearly everybody's least favorite emotion:  fear.

 He writes:  "Jesus warns against fear in the spiritual life.  When it comes to God's activity, fear is, paradoxically, dangerous, because it turns us away from God.  Rather than focusing on what God can do, we are tempted to focus on what it seems God cannot do - that is, protect us."

Jesus, in his teaching, emphasizes three truths about the spiritual life:

  • First, I have not come to harm you.  God's presence should not prompt fear, for God always comes in love.
  • Second, don't fear the new.  God's entrance into your life may mean that something will change, but unanticipated doesn't necessarily mean frightening.
  • Third, there is no need to fear things you don't understand. If it comes from God, even the mysterious should hold no terror.  You may not understand fully what God is asking, but this is no cause to be frightened.

This story in Mark is about skilled people doing what they do best:  professional fishermen sailing their boat.  And, it is here that they discover their limits and their need for God.   It is here that they realize that they will never be absolute masters of their own destiny, that their own skills will never be enough. This is true humility. This also is liberating: you and I are never on our own.  Jesus is always there with us to help us through the storms and the calms of our lives.

Even if you don't ordinarily read about God, go to the Bible and read this story or pick up one of Father Martin's books.  What a wonderful gift if this summer, you became a little less filled with fear and a little more touched by the love of Jesus Christ.