Here is an excellent commentary from Fr Denny Dempsey on this Sunday’s gospel story of Jesus calming the storm
“The Sea of Galilee is 11 miles long and 8.5 miles wide. It lies 640 feet below sea level in a depression that runs down through the Dead Sea, the result of two tectonic plates slowly moving apart for millions of years forming the Jordan River valley. Moisture-laden winds off the Mediterranean Sea 35 miles to the west gain momentum as they drop down into that depression to the lake. A mild wind can quickly blow up into a gale driving six-foot waves.
The boat, if similar to the one from the period raised from the mud of the Sea of Galilee in the 1980’s, was about 26 feet long and 4 feet deep, fitted with a mast and several places for setting oars. Used for fishing during the night, it doubled as a transport for cargo and passengers during the day. It was in the stern that Jesus was sleeping, out of the wind and rain with some sandbags for cushions. The stern, being in the back of the boat, is the most stable place in a boat. While the bow (front end) may pitch and rise and fall wildly on the waves, movement in the stern might feel comparatively like rocking a baby.
Was Jesus really asleep? He could have been but I think he may have been just pretending, keeping an eye slightly open to see how his apostles would respond to the storm…a little test of their confidence. Does it ever seem like Jesus is sleeping through some storms in our lives? Our faith may be put to the test, as with the apostles. We are tested through the storms of life. Do we give up or keep going? Do we take our anxieties out on others or become an inspiration for them? Do we get closer or farther away from God? Note that, while the apostles woke Jesus, they didn’t ask for strength to get through. Instead they challenged Jesus’ concern for them. The storm had gotten the better of them, and they were taking it out on Jesus. Reflecting on the storms of life, Paul challenges Christians (Romans 8:35) with the question: “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer? Nothing, if we don’t let it.
I’m sure the apostles were relieved with the “great calm” which ensued, but was Jesus possibly teaching them another lesson? There they were, out in the middle of a huge lake with no wind. The sail was not going to do them any good. They would have had to break out the oars and row the rest of the way. You know that expression, “Be careful what you ask for…you might get it!!” Sometimes it is better to ask God’s strength to get through the storms of life than to ask God to take them all away