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God asked Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach. Nineveh was responsible for the destruction and deportation of the ten northern tribes of Israel. They were absolutely merciless. Jonah said to God, “I know what is going to happen if I go. I will preach to them. They will listen and repent of their sins. Of course, You will forgive them because You are slow in anger and rich in compassion. I am not going. I will have no part of their salvation.” So instead of going east, Jonah hopped on a boat and went west. Once the boat was in the middle of the sea, a bad storm developed. The sailors were terrified by the intensity of the storm. One of the Psalms tells us that the sailors went down to the sea in ships and saw the glory and power of God. I know if I were in one of those ancient wooden boats in the middle of the sea surrounded by a hurricane, I, too, would see the glory of God. I probably would not be having a very good time, but I would witness the power and majesty of God.
The sailors decided to turn to their pagan gods and pray. The storm, however, grew worse. Seeing the danger, they met with one another again and came to the conclusion that someone was not praying to his god. They looked around and to their dismay, they found the prophet Jonah sleeping on a cushion at the bottom of the boat. They woke him up and asked him why he was not praying. He told them that he was not praying because he did not do what God wanted him to do. So all the sailors turned to the God of Jonah and prayed. In the end, the sailors were saved, and God sent a water taxi–a whale-to bring Jonah to shore so he could do his job in Nineveh. What is the point of the storm? What is the role of the storm in the story? To show who had faith and who did not have faith. As it turns out, it was the pagan sailors who had faith in God and the Israelite prophet did not. Faith is hidden inside of us. You cannot see it. It is only visible in the storms of life.
I used to build forms and pour footings with my father. They are the cement slap that stabilizes and supports the house structure. You can drive by all my footings and never see any of them because they are buried under the house. The only time anyone notices the footings of the house is when the house is not floating down main street during a hurricane. “Oh,” they say, “a Grover must have built the footing for that house.”
Whenever there is a storm in the Bible, know that it is there to reveal those who have faith and those who do not.
Now let us turn to the Gospel where Jesus and disciples are in the boat during a storm at sea. The roles have now reversed. It is the guy sleeping on the cushion Who has the faith, and the sailors do not. You would think the disciples would have great faith. They just saw a possessed man freed from the shackles of a demon. They just witnessed a whole village of sick people who were cured by Jesus. They just watched a paralyzed man return home carrying his bed. You would think they had faith, but the storm exposed them. One would think they had faith, but the storms never lie. They have no faith.
The lesson here is this: our job as Christians is to show the world our faith. The only time they will be able to see our faith is in the storms of life, in the difficult times. These are our finest moments, our hour to shine. When we are going through hard times, remember, this is our opportunity to show the world the greatness and glory of God.Back to All Homilies