Commentary on the Gospel of
In today’s first reading we are reminded of Abraham’s steadfastness in his faith. The response is from the Canticle of Zechariah. In today’s Gospel, Jesus calms the waters. These passages bring back my memories from 40 years ago.
The response, which we read today, rather than being a Psalm is from Luke’s Gospel. The passage sounded so familiar. I remembered a time in my life when I had been basing much of my prayer on the Liturgy of the Hours. I realized that this was the Canticle of Zechariah from Lauds, the morning prayer which I first heard professed by monks at a monastery. This was Zechariah’s summary of Old Testament history and his prophesy for what was to come, which he professes on the occasion of the circumcision of his son John the Baptist. (I also recall that Zechariah was made mute because of his lack of faith, and that this passage follows after he has been filled with the Spirit.)
In the same way a consideration of faith brought me back to this time period. It was this month in 1981 that the English version of the Swiss theologian Hans Küng’s book “Does God Exist?” appeared. I remember how the introduction struck me. There he wrote how his book was addressed in part to those (like me) who have come to doubt their doubting. Here faith is addressed in a very different way from the “definition” in the introduction to today’s first reading. (My impression is that the author of the letter to the Hebrews was writing to show the outcome of trust in God rather than provide a dictionary definition of the word faith.)
The Gospel also brought back memories. My father belonged to an American Legion Post that overlooked Lake Michigan. He would invite the family for a fish fry on Friday nights. I can recall the view and the awe produced by the power of a squall over the lake. I have never been on the water during a storm, but my experience of being in the mountains during thunderstorms may have given me a taste of what it is like to be vulnerable with no safe haven nearby. It clearly is an experience that brings fear to the front.
I consider how I respond to moments of losing all control of a situation. These moments give me some insight into my faith. I wish that I could say that I consistently responded with putting my doubts aside, but that has not always been the case. When my sister died at the age of 48 it was a clear blow to the faith that I had. When my daughter-in-law suffered heart failure after delivering twins it was a clear embracing of my faith. (Still, I wonder how my response would have evolved if she had eventually succumbed.)
If I imagine myself as an apostle in today’s Gospel, I see that I would have a similar experience, fearful and wondering about a sleeping teacher. I can picture myself feeling chastised, but not abandoned by Jesus; I imagine that I would continue as a follower, but it would not be until the Pentecost experience that real faith would set in.
My experience does not naturally lead me to expect miracles.