There are many stories in the scriptures of people who are afflicted by suffering of all kinds. The story of Job is an examination of the role of suffering in life. Job has all he wants in life when it is all suddenly taken from him. He loses family, possessions, health and peace of mind. He enters into dialogue with God, declaring his innocence and asking God why he has been so singled out for suffering. His friends, Job’s comforters, try to tell him that he must have done something to deserve his fate but Job bravely faces God with his questions. The story is beautifully poetic and the story ends, in the eye of a tempest, as Job acknowledges that God has his own reasons and that he has set a limit on all things created. God is master of the storms, of creation and of suffering. Job’s problem is not solved but rather dissolved in the face of the majesty and mystery of God.
The disciples, in the Gospel story are asking the same question. To Jesus they say, ‘Master, do you not care?’ The answer given to them is the same as that given to Job. Trust in the power of God and have faith in Him. The power of God the creator in that first reading is shown in his command to the waves, ‘Come thus far and no further’. Jesus shows the disciples and the others his power and his divinity by calming the storm. His power over the forces of nature demonstrates his God-ness, his divine nature. He is indeed the Messiah, the one sent by God to call halt to the power of suffering and death. He is the haven for which the people in the psalm sought. He is the source of peace that the disciples called out for. He inspires awe in the hearts of those who recognise his identity and his Godly power in the face of the storm.
To face suffering and death is the ultimate storm that many people face. There are always storms in the form of rows, break-ups, annoyances and upsets of all kinds. Such is the stuff of life from time to time. Even when Christ accompanied the disciples, life was still stormy and uncertain. Death, with all its finality and power has, however, been tamed and brought to heel by Christ. He has said to death, as in the first reading, ‘thus far, and no further. Here, your proud waves shall break’. He has taken on death and conquered it for us.
He has given us a haven from the storm when we cry out. He has made the hard road of suffering into a pathway to glory and turned the blind alleyway of death into a gateway to eternal life. His word can bring calm and comfort in the storms and squalls of life. It is a word that makes promises to all who keep their word and promise, who listen and follow. It is a word that inspires courage. Do not be afraid, he constantly says. ‘Go out into the deep’ was the final call of the late Pope John Paul II.
Today’s story also gives us permission to question and challenge God. Even the disciples do not, as it were, ‘let sleeping Gods lie’. We may not always get ultimate answers but the tradition of robust questioning is firmly fixed in the Old Testament stories. Sometimes we may have to acknowledge that our understanding only takes us so far and we have to trust in the wisdom and goodness of the God who is Lord of all and master of all.