«Why are you so frightened? Have you still no faith?» For Mark the Gospel-writer, these two questions that Jesus directs to his disciples aren’t just an anecdote from the past. They are questions that Jesus’ followers need to hear in the midst of our crises. The questions that we also need to ask ourselves today: What is the root of our cowardice? Why are we afraid of the future? Is it because we lack faith in Jesus Christ?
The story is a short one. It all starts with Jesus’ command: «Let us cross over to the other side». The disciples know that the other side of the Sea of Tiberias is the pagan territory of the Decapolis. A different and strange country. A culture that is hostile to their religion and their beliefs.
All of a sudden there arose a powerful storm, graphic metaphor of what is happening in the group of disciples. The hurricane-strength wind, the waves breaking against the boat, the water that starts filling it up, all express their situation: What can Jesus’ followers do in the face of the pagan world’s hostility? It’s not just their mission that is in jeopardy, but the very existence of their group.
Awakened by his disciples, Jesus intervenes, the wind lets up, and over the lake there comes a great calm. What’s surprising is that the disciples «are overcome with awe». Before they were afraid of the storm. Now it seems they are afraid of Jesus. Nevertheless something decisive has happened in them: they rushed to Jesus, they could experience in him a saving power that they hadn’t known, they begin to ask themselves about his identity. They are beginning to understand that with him everything is possible.
Christianity today finds itself in the midst of a «powerful storm» and fear begins to overcome us. We don’t dare pass over to «the other shore». Modern culture becomes a strange and hostile country for us. The future causes us to be afraid. Creativity seems to be prohibited. Some think it’s safer to look backwards in order to go forward.
Jesus can surprise us all. The Resurrected One has power to inaugurate a new phase in the history of Christianity. All he asks of us is faith. A faith that frees us from so much fear and cowardice, a faith that commits us to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf