Calming the Storm ~ Fr. Frank Bellino, Novice

Before I talk of our Heavenly Father, I want to share about “Father’s Day.” Far from a “Hallmark holiday,” Father’s Day has its origins in medieval Europe, when Catholics dedicated a day to honoring fathers, fatherhood, and all paternal relationships. Fast forward a couple hundred years, and it is now a holiday held all over the world — a testament to how important fathers and father figures are in societies everywhere. However, be careful. The date fluctuates around the world. In Spain, for example, it is held on March 19, while in New Zealand, it is the first Sunday in September. Keep this in mind if you are traveling, or have family living overseas. There are few things more upsetting than a disappointed dad.

Father’s Day in America has a rich history dating back to the turn of the 20th century. But to really understand Father’s Day we must go back to the post-civil war reconstruction era of the 1860s and a day that celebrates the other half of the parenting duo, mothers.

The idea of celebrating parents has its roots in one woman: Ann Reeves Jarvis. Shortly after the Civil War, Jarvis sought to soothe the wounds created over four years of bitter conflict in one divided West Virginia town by choosing a day to celebrate mothers of both confederate and Union soldiers. Known as “Mother’s Workdays” Jarvis hoped that during the newly installed era of peace and reconciliation that previous enemies could begin to sow unity again by celebrating one thing they all had in common.

At the end of the Book of Job, God addressed Job out of a storm and asked him if he was present when God created the world.  In today’s first reading God speaks about the creation and confining of the sea.  In the Gospel, Jesus quiets a storm, and the disciples ask, “Who is this whom even the wind and sea obey?”

            Insurance companies use a term to describe an uncontrollable natural force.  They call this an act of God.  That is an unfortunate term.  It assumes that God causes nature to do harm to people.  God does not do evil things to people.  People do evil things to people.  Pope Francis in the encyclical Lauate Si, On the Care for our Common Home, directs us to discover and prevent any catastrophe that could rightly be called an Act of Man.

            Natural catastrophes are events that we are very much aware of here in Texas. We are always keeping an eye on the weather and how it will affect the roads and creek and river waters around us.  We must have a lot of respect for stormy weather, particularly when a hurricane or hail threatens.  Here at St. Michael’s, we do not either have hurricane windows, or wood or metal doors and windows to protect the Church and all our building, as it is unlikely that a hurricane will strike us. But now rain is a different story, we must utilize our intellect to determine what protection we must take.  Hopefully, you have all made provisions to protect your homes also.

            As careful as people must be with their property that is on land, they must be far more careful with that which is on the water.  Boats have got to be secured.  Trying to stay afloat during a major storm is foolish unless you are in a large ship.

            The ancients also had a healthy respect for the sea and for storms out on the sea. The ancients saw the sea as one of the most powerful forces in the world. They also saw the sea as a source of beauty. Life itself came from the sea.  Food comes from the sea. Peace and serenity come from looking at the sea.  If you do not believe me than you have not gone out to see the sunset on Medina Lake recently.

            Even though it was such a powerful force, the ancients knew that God could control the sea. In the Book of Job, Job’s pains lead him to question God’s wisdom and power.  God challenges Job with the simple statement found in the first reading for this Sunday: “I closed up the sea.” God has even more power than the sea.

            The fear of a storm at sea was too much for Jesus’ disciples in the today’s Gospel reading.  Many of them were fishermen.  They were terrorized when they saw the storm coming.  When Jesus quieted the sea and the winds, they recognized the power of God working through him.  Their question: “Who is this that calms the storm and the winds?” was similar to asking, “Who is the King of Glory?”

            First, though, their faith was tried.  Remember, when the storm came up, Jesus was asleep in the boat.  It appeared that He was not concerned with their plight.  It seemed that they had to ride out this storm alone.  The fear that the disciples had is the same fear that we all have when we are confronted with a crisis.  We find out that we have a serious illness, and we become fearful for our lives and for our loved ones.   We learn a terrible truth about one of our relatives or friends, and we fear that their lives and even our own reputations will be shattered.  We often must accept a change in our lives.  Even changes as routine as moving from Middle School to High School, or High School to college, or college to independent life as a young adult can be frightening. We consider marriage and our responsibilities to a person we love, and then we consider our responsibilities to those people that we bring into the world, and we fear that we might not be up to the challenges of life. We fear that we are alone.  But we are not alone.  God sees.  God knows.  He is there in the boat of life with us as the storms rage. He challenges us as Jesus challenged his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” Our all-loving God is also an all-powerful God.  He will calm the sea for us if we trust in Him.  God does not forget us, even if we think He is sleeping.

            Perhaps today’s readings are not about nature after all.  They are about God, Our Father, the One who created the universe and cares for each one of us as an only child.  He calls upon us to have faith that conqueror of the seas and of all chaos will help us grow closer to Him through all the challenges of our lives.