I’m so scared.

April 15th Sunday Readings.

 

denny-muller-534079-unsplashAre you the kind of person who is startled easily? I wish I could say no, but I’d be lying. A number of years ago, a friend of mine hid in a darkened closet to scare me. I opened the door, he harmlessly jumped out from behind a rack of chairs and barely uttered “boo” before I started screaming uncontrollably. I threw the music stand I was holding at him and nearly dropped by lap top. I was terrified. No real injury except for my dignity. 

In the gospel the resurrected Jesus comes into the presence of the disciples, and scripture says they were startled and terrified and thought they had seen a ghost. This was after Peter returned from the tomb, and after the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had recounted their experiences of the risen Jesus. 

Jesus goes on to inquire as to why they are so afraid. He even goes so far as to ask for something to eat. This thing before them isn’t a ghost, but Jesus, their friend, raised from the dead. Yet the disciples who saw all of Jesus miracles, were still shocked by his resurrection. 

How would you react if you encountered the resurrected Jesus? Would you be scared, startled, and spooked? I think how we react to Jesus the living God is directly related to who we think Jesus is and what we expect him to do.

If Jesus is just a good man and a good teacher, then seeing him appear after his death would be a frightening thing. If what we expected out of Jesus is that he would conquer the Romans, then we might just be terrified if he showed up after having been killed by the Romans. If Jesus is only our judge, then we might be a little worried when he appears. 

However, if we really believe that Jesus is God and if we believe that Jesus’ purpose was to conquer death and restore humanity’s relationship with God, then I don’t think we will be too worried about encountering the risen Jesus. If Jesus is on our side, and wants us to go to heaven even more than we do, then having him appear in our midst should be a relief for us. 

The other thing is this; as humans, we have a natural suspicion of strangers. If we were out to dinner with our family and some stranger sat down at our table, then we would probably be scared or at least a little on edge. Is Jesus a stranger for you? I don’t mean do you know who he is – of course you do. But do you know Jesus, personally? If really, truly encountering Jesus would be shocking and terrifying, I think it’s time to think about whether you know Jesus and why you think he wants to be near to you. 

Live It:
Invite Jesus into life. Whether it is at the end of the night before you go to bed or in the middle of Mass on Sunday, say a little prayer inviting Jesus into your heart and into your life. That way Jesus won’t be a stranger.

The Good Word for June 21st

For the complete Sunday readings click here. tumblr_static_summer_storm_no2

Have you ever gotten caught in a really bad thunderstorm? I’ll never forget the storm I drove through in Iowa one summer when I was just out of college. I was driving from Minnesota back to my parent’s house in St. Louis, Missouri with my future wife Liz and my sister Kate. We got a little later start than we had hoped and ended up driving late into the night.

That night was pitch black because of the thick cloud cover. The rain was falling so heavily that the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. The national weather service kept interrupting the regular radio programming to warn of tornados, high winds, and hail. No one was talking in the car; it was all I could do to keep the car between the white lines.

At one point a huge truck passed us and in trying to turn up the already maxed out windshield wipers, I accidently turned them off! In my panic, I couldn’t figure out how to get them back on and just kept yelling, “THEY’RE NOT RESPONDING!” My sister and wife like to laugh about it now, but at the time it was more scary than funny. We just wanted the storm to pass and to make it home.

In the gospel this weekend we hear the familiar story of the disciples’ stormy boat voyage. In a panic the disciples wake Jesus who quickly calms the storm. Jesus then says, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Honestly, I’ve always been bothered by this moment in scripture. Of course they were terrified! The disciples were exposed on an open fishing boat in the middle of a large body of water with lightning and thunder, high winds and driving rain. Waves of water were crashing over the side of the boat and threatening to capsize or sink the small boat with all the disciples in it. The risk of being hit by lightning or drowned in the sea would certainly make any sane person fearful. Yet, Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. Why?

Jesus was with them.

In our lives we are going to encounter many storms. Some storms are small, only lasting a moment or a day. Others seem like they will never end. We are going to encounter serious illness, financial difficulties, job loss, struggling children, betrayal, heartbreak, car accidents, loss of freedom, marriage stress, parents in crisis, and other causes of stormy life. Even without a direct cause, our life might feel like a storm if it is filled with anxiety about just meeting the demands of the modern world. For some of us, our day to day is one big anxiety fueled storm.

The key to this gospel, and why it is good news, is that no matter what, Jesus is with us. Jesus doesn’t abandon the disciples. Jesus rides out the storm with them. And with just three words, Jesus calms the storm. God is powerful and God is good. No matter what our storm is, God will be there with us. Even when the storm seems like it will never stop, Jesus remains faithful.

Maybe you or someone you love is in the midst of an overwhelming storm. Maybe you feel powerless in this terrifying moment. This gospel story asks us, “Will you trust God in the midst of the storm? Will you give Jesus your fear when high winds push waves into your boat? Will you let yourself believe God is more powerful than any struggle you encounter in life?”

Live it:
Pray this simple prayer, “Jesus I trust in you.”