|Sea of Galilee ~ Stormy indeed!|
As soon as it was over he made his disciples embark and cross to Bethsaida ahead of him, while he himself sent the people away. After taking leave of them, he went up the hill-side to pray. It grew late and the boat was already well out on the water, while he was alone on the land. Somewhere between three and six in the morning, seeing them labouring at the oars against a head-wind, he came towards them, walking on the lake. He was going to pass them by; but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But at once he spoke to them: "Take heart! It is I; do not be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat beside them, and the wind dropped. At this they were completely dumbfounded, for they had not understood the incident of the loaves; their minds were closed. Mark 6: 45-52
This gospel scene follows immediately after the account of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, (scroll down to January 5th, 2016). Jesus has fed the crowds and they pack things up quickly. Maybe he senses bad weather is coming. Or perhaps Jesus doesn't want to be associated with nationalistic things. Jesus and nationalism don't mix. Even Mass ends quickly after Holy Communion (how sad some folks won't wait that little bit).
Then Jesus went up the hillside to pray. Going up a mountain or a hill always signifies an encounter with God. Prayer is the flight of the heart to God, Father Alexander Men said. The mountain then is ultimately an interior experience, isn't it?
Between three and six in the morning - a very dark time, but a new day is drawing near. Can you name that? The very dark time? And the disciples are wearying - labouring is the word. They're tired and really up against the odds. The Sea of Galilee can experience terrific storms as it's surrounded by mountains and hills that act as funnels for the wind! How frightening for them. Again - name it for yourself? I'll name it for the world: weary, terrified, exhausted, going under.
And he spoke to them. Jesus doesn't give them a volume to read or deliver a lecture, but he speaks to their hearts, their fearful hearts. He even gets into the boat and sits down next to them - like a mother sitting on the bedside of a child suffering night terrors and bad dreams! Christ our mother, Saint Juliana says. And the wind drops. It'll be okay. We're known by God personally. It matters to God that we exist.
Their minds were closed. Not to say they were set against Jesus - but their minds were shut down, not being able to comprehend. This is beyond imagining. We limit God terribly or we can't handle God's surprises. Father Walsh, the founder of the American missionary community, Maryknoll, used to say to the newly ordained priests being sent around the world on Departure Day: "Remember, wherever you land, God was there long before you arrived." What a surprise to the zealous young man who thought he was going to a faraway place - even to pagans (such a condescending term) - and to have it announced, God is here already!
Dallyn Vail Bayles sings the perfect hymn in response to this Gospel: How Can I Keep From Singing. Listen to the powerful lyrics which we will so easily identify in our own lives. The images that accompany the song are stunning. At the end - be silent. You may need some moments to recover anyway.