Robert Louis Stevenson once told a story about a storm tossed boat. It was night and the waves brought the boat dangerously close to a rocky shore. The wind threatened to drive the boat to destruction on to the rocks.
The passengers were confined below decks while the crew struggled to keep the boat afloat and away from danger. They were terrified, not knowing what was happening or if the next few moments would be their last.
Finally one passenger decided to defy the orders of the captain and see what was going on. He climbed up to the deck and made his way to the pilot house. The deck of the ship was slick and rolling. If he didn’t slip and crack his skull, then he was in danger of the wind blowing him overboard.
Slowly, grabbing onto whatever handholds he could find, he made it to the pilot house and looked in. He saw the steersman, holding onto the ship’s wheel unwaveringly. Inch by inch the steersman was turning the boat away from the rocks and out into the open sea. The pilot looked over to the storm drenched passenger and smiled.
The passenger made his way, inch by inch, back along the treacherous deck, swept by wind and waves. He climbed down the stairs to the room where the others were huddled together out of fear, and gave a note of good cheer.
“Fear not,” he said, “for I have seen the face of the pilot and he smiled. All is well.”
Today’s gospel tells a similar story about staying true to God while surrounded by a world that seems to give Him little thought. The storm tossed boat is an image of life, the life of the Church on the storms of history and the life of every Christian as he struggles with hardship and doubt. The apostle’s fear of the unknown is something we encounter everyday. We do not always recognize or understand God’s mysterious actions in our lives. And that can cause us to fear.
Do we allow the wind and rain of this world to distract us from our faith? Do the waves of our pagan culture threaten to overwhelm us? God is greater than the storm that is the world today. If we keep our eyes on Him and hold fast to our faith then the wind and the sea of secular society cannot touch us. Jesus tells us if we had faith the size of a mustard seed we could move mountains. Imagine then, what we could do if we just had enough faith to keep our eyes fixed on Him.
God uses the world to announce His coming, he is not in the storm, or the earthquake, or the fire. These are his heralds. God is in the tiny whispering sound that comes after them. Jesus is the still small voice that whispers to all of us. “Why do you doubt?” “Why are you afraid” “I will be with you always, unto the end of the age.”