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June 21, 2015

Have you ever been frightened?  I bet that everyone has been scared out of their minds at least once. Last Friday I was at Saamis Prairie View Cemetery waiting for the funeral staff and family.  The storm came suddenly knocking down power poles, power lines and big trees.  Branches were flying everywhere.  I had to move my car to an open space and prayed to the Archangel Michael to protect me.  Well, he did.   But that storm was nothing compared to what I have experienced before.  Sometime ago, 15 of us were escaping from Vietnam to Malaysia by boat.  We crossed the Pacific Ocean in a boat, the same size as Peter’s boat that night in the Sea of Galilee. The boat was too small, 6 feet wide and 20 feet long.  The journey took us 7 days, but for me, it seemed like years.  Most of the time all my friends were seasick.  I managed the boat alone against strong winds and big waves.  I was frightened to death.  There was only one I could talk to, and that was God.  But it seemed like he was sleeping or abandoning us.  I kept saying, "Where are you Lord?  Do you care for us?  Are you asleep at the back of our boat?" (We had no room at the back of the boat.  He wouldn’t be there).

Sometimes we are like the apostles.  The Gospel portrays them as slow learners.  They seemed to keep missing the point, the point of who Jesus was.  They kept on learning the lesson over and over again.

The apostles were crossing the sea to escape from the crowds.  Jesus, worn out from his works, was asleep at the back of the boat.  The fact that the Master was on board did not prevent a wicked storm from blowing up.  The apostles tried to cope with it on their own but it proved too much for them.  They awakened the Master, and the Master spoke to the wind and there came a great calm.  If this was just a physical miracle, it would not have any significance to us.  There are still many boats sinking in the seas. About 500,000 people drowned during the time that I escaped; there are still angry waters everywhere.  Why has the Lord not done anything about that?  So then the miracle in today's Gospel was not merely a physical miracle, it was more than that.  The presence of the Lord brought peace and faith to the apostles.  Now he can do the same for us.

In our lives we encounter various kinds of storms: bad situations of one kind or another which disrupt our lives and sometimes even threaten to sink us.  But this should not surprise us. The mere fact that we are trying to follow Christ is no guarantee that we will be spared from the storms.  Christ never promised his followers that their lives would be like a nice cruise (cruises have troubles too, don’t they?)  Rather he hinted that they would have to pass through many stormy waters.  Therefore when the storm strikes us, we must not feel that God has abandoned us, much less that he is punishing us for our sins.

In some of these storms we may feel that we can no longer cope on our own.  Our own resources are clearly not enough.  The waves of anger, fear, pain, and despair rise up and threaten to engulf us.  It is then that we must believe that Christ is with us and that his help is available to us.  If our faith is strong, we will know that Christ is sleeping at our door, that all we have to do is awaken him with the bell-ringing of our prayer.  With his help, we will survive any storm.  Our fear will subside, and peace will return to our troubled hearts.  Christ was present with his friends in the midst of the storm.  He also asks each of us to do the same: to make ourselves available to the person who is caught in the middle of the storm.  We will have no magic words to offer, none except our presence and our availability.  But these are precious things.  These are things that calm the storm - not magic words, but a loving, and supportive presence.