Commentary on the Gospel of
Today’s readings present significant challenges in living the life of faith: freedom from guilt and fear.
In the book of Samuel, David is presented with a case, which he is empowered to judge in his role as king. But he did not know that Nathan the prophet was tricking him by disguising the perpetrator of injustice. That injustice was easy to spot, but would the judge give the same verdict if he knew he was passing judgment on himself?
David was trapped under the burden of his sin. We all know how that feels. Our sin puts us in a state of turmoil. Instead of choosing the medicine we need to be whole – love of God and love of neighbor – we have chosen the poison pill of self-love. We are not thinking clearly, as our mind is darkened; guilt pervades our senses. We sense that all is not right with the world and with God because we have alienated ourselves from our neighbors and from our Father.
Thanks be to God that there is an antidote for that poison! David shows us the path forward. As king, David could have lashed out at Nathan and defended his royal prerogatives. We face a similar temptation in trying to justify and excuse our wrongs, suppressing the truth instead of submitting to it. The verses from Psalm 51 reflect humility, contrition, and the heart’s cry for mercy from God who hears us – which are rooted in a deep faith in God’s love for us. This is the path out of the confusion, alienation and darkness. It may not be easy, but it is better than taking more of those poison pills!
Faith, however weak, leads us back to the goodness of God who made us and loves us. Today’s gospel presents yet another faith challenge for the apostles. In this story, fear had clouded their thinking – guilt apparently does not have the monopoly on that power. Jesus wanted to go on a boat trip. I note that “they took Jesus with them in the boat,just as he was.” Perhaps Jesus did not have his seafaring garb along! And he did not bring a life jacket! Other boats also tagged along, making a small flotilla of fishermen turned disciples – a motley crew indeed! But wouldn’t it have been wonderful to ride along with them!
Jesus was probably the odd man out, as this was not his usual milieu. When the others were terrified about the sudden storm – a normal reaction for experienced sailors – Jesus slept in the back of the boat. When he is awakened, not only does he rebuke the wind, but he also rebukes the disciples. Fear and faith are in polar opposition. Jesus, the Teacher, provides quite an object lesson here. You have to get your mind right: if the Lord of the wind and sea is in the boat with you, do not let fear cloud your mind.
We all want to be free of guilt and fear, and we need divine help to navigate out of the traps that keep us guilty and fearful. Let us choose the good medicine of love of God and love of neighbor, not the poison of self-love that feeds upon desires that distort and disrupt our relationships with God and neighbor. And when we choose wrongly, let us draw upon the gift of faith to turn to God for the antidote. Mercy follows repentance; love casts out fear. We can trust God to heal us and to accompany us on the journey. He created us, and He is Lord of all. His love never fails. Thanks be to God.