It was starting to drizzle as I passed this scene. Ingenuity mixed with hospitality; it is an honest effort by the simple hawker. I wondered what it would shelter. It was too small and flimsy to shelter man from the scorching lunch time sun or a heavy drizzle, or from strong winds or the thick dust from the Bangkok traffic. Perhaps it is just to shelter the bowl of noodles from something that may drop in from above.
Life has been good to many of us. Easier to state this if we live in an affluent society. The price of comforts in life is faith, or rather, the weakening of our faith life. Affluence comforts us, but it can also complacent us. Beginning with innocent hope, we are fattened by expectations and grown obese in our demands. Self-entitlement is like a triglyceride coursing through the veins of our spiritual life. It is a modern-day ailment that affects our value system.
We build our life on hopes, and most of these are on worldly things. There is nothing wrong with those except that we don’t usually get everything we hope for. Life will toss us around. We will all in time be hit by waves of crushing disappointments and sufferings. Our desires can spin into a gale force wind or swell into a 10-foot wave that will come crashing down on us. We cannot escape storms in our personal life. We are offered the shelter of faith, flimsy as it may seem to us at those moments.
“Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep. ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ He woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’” (Today’s Gospel)
True hope is God centred. Believing in God does not prevent storms from happening in our life. If there is a God, why is there suffering, why is there a pandemic? Faith gives us an inner calm and patience to wait for the storm to pass. Faith tells us of the promise of eternal life without suffering. This is the one true hope that we must centre all our other, worldly hopes on. As our boats journey towards eternal life, through all unavoidable storms, we know we will always be buoyed by this promise provided it is in this faith and hope that we seek shelter.
Jesus is asleep on our boat. He is asleep because he has already set the course for our journey. He knows the personal storms ahead of us. He has prepared us, sometimes in special, unique ways. Some of us are called into baptism as adults or have returned to church after decades away. On being baptised or returned, we embrace new life in him. “And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here”. (Second Reading) In other words, our belief system and values are now anchored in this faith and hope.
And then the storms come. We look to the heavens with our flimsy faith and accuse Jesus, “Master, do you not care? We are going down!”. Only when the storms settle that we can look back and understand that Jesus called us through baptism or to return to Church so as to come under the shelter of faith and hope to weather the storms that were ahead.
Today we are in a pandemic. Some people are experiencing the worst storms in their life. Faith tells us that Jesus is on their boats. For others, we were at the gates of our lockdown waiting for it to open to bolt out only to be hit by another wave. Such is the nature of this storm. Today we are perhaps in the eye of the storm. It is a good time for us to find this faith and hope to shelter under for our personal storms ahead.
“From the heart of the tempest the Lord gave Job his answer.” (First Reading)
Life is best enjoyed with humility, like a simple bowl of noodles with a drop of faith from above.
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time