Below is today's Irish Times 'Thinking Anew' column.
Tomorrow’s Gospel could well be used as some sort of advice or mission statement for those of us who find it so easy to panic.
It’s a relatively well known passage, the story of Jesus travelling with his disciples in a boat in stormy waters. Jesus falls asleep while on the boat and the disciples are scared of their lives. They get cross with him for not helping them in their hour of need.
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4: 40)
It’s easy to advise people not to panic. It’s another story to move away from panic. And I know that first-hand. At 48 I moved from teaching to journalism. I worked as a sub-editor at a provincial newspaper and enjoyed every moment of it, well almost every moment.
My main job was designing pages, then editing text and placing in on the page. While I learned some of the craft in the journalist course I did, no course ever fully equips you for the job. It’s always a matter of learning on the job.
The production of any newspaper is always concerned with deadlines and speed. Sube-ditors have to be nifty people. They have to be able to move things around at great speed, responding to new information, all the time being accurate.
Doing that job I learned how easily I panic. Once under any sort of extended pressure I found myself racing into panic mode. And once the panic button had been pressed it became impossible to do anything. It became impossible to put a full stop at the end of a sentence. Panic means being moribund.
Maybe over time it was possible to avoid that panic but I certainly learned the hard way that panic is disastrous for every situation and eventuality.
In tomorrow’s Gospel those closest to Jesus began to panic; they lost their nerve and rebuked him for not helping them in their moment of great need.
He calmly and quietly assures them that all is in order, they all will be well and he suggests to them that their faith may not be the strongest.
None of us, no matter how strong we think we are, is ever too far away from uncertainty or doubt. And that applies to so many aspects of our daily lives, the things we do, all those tangible aspects associated with our daily lives.
When it comes to belief or faith in God everything surely becomes so much more nebulous and yes, uncertain. If the disciples found themselves doubting the word of Jesus, is it any wonder that we too would doubt and be sceptical about placing our trust in God?
There are those who will say that we are living in a “godless society”, they will argue that we exclude God from our daily lives. Is that not a form of panic? Is that not some sort of scare mentality, in which we do not have the vocabulary or vision to see God and God’s reality in the world in which we live.
When Pope Benedict walked through the gates of the Auschwitz death camp he made a reference to how difficult it must have been to see or believe in God. And yet just there, in that depravity people did see God.
As believing Christians it’s our challenge to experience the presence of God right where we are and in the times in which we live. To say anything else is a form of panic. And panic makes us moribund. Faith in God is a source of energy.
We too can relax and be assured in the calming quality of God.