At the end of March, Pope Francis presided over a special prayer service from St. Peter’s in Rome at which he offered the urbi et orbi—a special blessing to the city of Rome and to the world. A blessing usually reserved for Christmas and Easter, he offered it recently because of the great suffering the world is enduring with this coronavirus.
Before the blessing, the world heard the Gospel passage from Mark in which Jesus calmed the storm and Pope Francis offered his homily on this reading.
And how appropriate for his homily to be on this reading. Because, what a storm we are in right now. How many of us feel like we are stuck in a raging storm and are being ignored in all of the challenges, worries and restrictions that come with this coronavirus? How many of us feel like God is asleep while we are terrified and overwhelmed and feel like we might drown in the waves of isolation and disappointment, fear and despair?
Or have we wondered through this crisis how it is that our God who loves us, who is all-good and all-powerful, who could just tell the storm of this pandemic to stop and it would obey–have we wondered where he is in all of our pain and confusion and unfairness of life? When we are separated from our family and friends, maybe even our parents who need our help, when we have to teach and entertain our children, when we are worried about our jobs, our bank balances, the bills that are due, how many of us are wondering, “Where is God? Where are the peace and calm he commanded with just a few words?”
Mark’s Gospel story is important because it reminds us of who God is and how he is at work in our lives, even during the storms. He is not so asleep that he can’t be helpful. He has not left us to weather this storm on our own. He makes himself present to us in the friend who calls at just the right time to check in. He is there in our child’s embrace and a parent’s gratitude. He is there in the people who are out there doing the things to help all of us get through this: the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers; the grocery store and pharmacy employees; the police officers and the cleaning crews.
And though the storms of life, including this current storm that we are all weathering together, do not disappear like magic, what we get in these people who are making the storm a little more bearable, a little easier to face, is the quiet and stillness that God gives. The comfort in knowing that we are loved, by God and by others. The peace that comes from knowing that God has not abandoned us, that there are people in our lives to help us, communities that will band together to support one another and pray together. And when you get that call or text from a friend at a moment when you thought the wave was going to sink you, know that that may have been God, standing before the storm and demanding, if only for a short respite, “Quiet! Be still!”