Calming the Stormy Waters

Earlier this week our school had a two hour delay because of some winter weather.  Children whose parents didn’t get the message came to our morning mass to get out of the cold, and -as they are wont to do- fell into chattering and giggling in the pews.  After mass, we had a little chat.

It’s hard for kids to understand the value of silence, the importance of calming the stormy sea.  In today’s Office of Readings, Paul gives his famous command to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 5:16), “Joy be with you always.  Never cease praying.”  But why?  As he alludes to throughout the rest of the Letter, this Christian life of ours, guided by prayer, opens us to a deeper wisdom, an ability to follow the Truth who is Jesus.  Bishop Diadochus of Photice puts it beautifully in his treatise, “On Spiritual Perfection,” also in today’s Office, “The light of true knowledge makes it possible to discern without error the difference between good and evil. … Therefore we must maintain great stillness of mind even in the midst of our struggles.” He goes on, “No fish can hide in a tranquil sea and escape the fisherman’s sight.  The stormy sea, however, becomes murky… the fisherman’s skills are useless.”  As much as anything else, prayer is us calming the seas of our heart so the Christ the fisherman can do his work.  As an aside, this reminds me of one title for my favorite saint, Philip Neri: “Piscator fluctuantiam,” Fisherman of the Wavering… such a great image.

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 6:1-6), Jesus returns to his native land but can do very little there because the people are so agitated by his words.  Their hearts were not calm and opened to the goodness directly in front of them. So today’s lesson isn’t just for kids… it’s for us adults too.  Indeed, in my community, I hear more and more each day about adults whose hearts, disturbed by the winds of the world simply can’t comprehend the goodness possible in the life of the Church.  They’re always on the defensive, worried about self-image, past sins, even the possibility of some person or circumstance irreparably harming them.  So we’re going to work to make our parish a haven, a safe place where their inner sea can find calm once again… so that Jesus the fisherman of souls can do his work.

“Joy be with you always.  Never cease praying.”