My dad was crossing the Pacific with fellow soldiers on his way to Okinawa when a typhoon struck. In the middle of the night, my grandparents felt a sudden urge to pray for their soldier son. It was the middle of December (1944) and typhoon Cobra struck the U.S. Fleet with winds up to 140 mph. There were nearly 800 casualties. It was known as the typhoon that stopped the war. Somehow, dad survived.
In Mark 6: 45-52 describes a storm where the experienced fisherman disciples’ lives were in trouble. Many commentaries believe the storm was initiated by Satan himself.
Mark offers a short guide to its setting:
- Like a commander, Jesus orders the disciples to board the boat.
“After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat.” As king of the universe, Jesus isn’t shy about giving commands. In John 15, Jesus commands us three times to love one another. As some have said, becoming a saint is a matter of the will.
- Jesus dismisses the crowd.
“Jesus crossed over to the other side toward Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.” John indicates the crowd hoped to take Jesus by force (cf. John 6:15). Both the crowd and the disciples needed to be protected from themselves. It wasn’t the right time (cf. “My time is not yet here; for you, any time will do.” (cf. John 2).
- Jesus climbed the mountain to pray.[/perfectpullquote
“He went off to the mountain to pray. When it was evening.” Earlier in Mark 1:35, “Jesus, a great while before dawn went off to pray.” In both Old and New Testaments, God uses mountains as a place where divine connections take place (cf. Mounts Tabor, Sinai, Carmel, Zion, and Olives). From the vantage point of the hilly region, Jesus spots the disciples in trouble.
Why did Jesus walk on water? Curiously, Mark leaves out Peter’s attempt at walking on water (cf. Matthew 14:22-34). The point of including this story about with the loaves and fishes is found in Mark 6:50-52):
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid! ”He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.”
Pope Francis explains how the disciples who were the closest to Jesus had hard hearts:
1). “This is the situation of those who “have lived a very painful experience and don’t want to begin another adventure. This is just what happened to the disciples of Emmaus after the Resurrection, There is too much, too much commotion, so let’s get away from here because of….’ — Because what? — ‘Eh, we were hoping this would be the Messiah, He wasn’t there, I don’t want to delude myself again, I don’t want to create illusions!’ that painful experience keeps us from opening our heart”.
2). “The heart becomes hardened: insecurity. It is experienced by those who think: ‘I don’t feel secure and I am trying to hang on to something to be secure’. This attitude is typical ‘with the Pharisees, with the Sadducees, with the doctors of the law in the time of Jesus’. They would have objected: ‘But the law says this, it says this up to here…”, and thus “they would make another commandment’; in the end, “the poor souls, they were leaning on 300-400 commandments and they felt secure’.
Pope Francis’s conclusion is on target:
“How does a heart become hardened. The heart in fact, when it hardens, is not free and if it isn’t free it’s because it does not love. This concept is expressed in the day’s First Reading (1 Jn 4:11-18), in which the Apostle John speaks of “perfect love” which “casts out fear”. Indeed, “‘there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.’ He isn’t free. He always fears that something painful or sad might happen which could cause us to “go the wrong way in life or to risk eternal salvation. Instead, this is only imagined, simply because that heart doesn’t love. The disciples’ hearts were hardened because they still hadn’t learned how to love”.
“Who teaches us how to love? Who frees us from this hardness? The Holy Spirit alone can do so. “You can take a thousand courses in catechesis, a thousand courses in spirituality, a thousand courses in yoga, Zen and all these things. But all of this will never be able to give you the freedom of the Son. Only the Holy Spirit moves your heart to say ‘Father’; He alone is capable of casting out, of breaking this hardness of the heart” and of making it docile to the Lord. Docile to the freedom of love. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to have a docile heart: that He save us from the slavery of a hardened heart and “lead us to that beautiful freedom of perfect love, the freedom of the children of God, which the Holy Spirit alone can give”.