In the Gospel Reading, there is a squall at sea, and the apostles’ boat begins to take on water. They are very afraid; and they wake up Jesus, who is asleep in the back of the boat. He calms the sea. And then he asks his disciples two questions:
Why are you terrified?
Don’t you yet have faith?
Why are they terrified? Well, because that boat is filling up with water, the wind is fierce, the waves are high, and there is an excellent chance that everybody in the boat will die by drowning. What is not to fear here?
And why does Jesus ask them if they have faith? The First Reading is from the book of Job. Job certainly had faith—and he lost all his children and his possessions in one day, shortly before he came down with a loathsome skin disease. If having faith won’t save a person from the fate of Job, then why wouldn’t the disciples fear, even if they had faith?
The solution lies in seeing how Jesus rescues his disciples from shipwreck. He doesn’t issue decrees about the weather. He talks directly to the sea. “Be still!” he says to the sea. And notice that in the First Reading this is exactly how God deals with the ocean. Just as Jesus says “you” to the sea, so God says “you” to the ocean: “So far shall you come and no further.” For God, for Jesus, even inanimate objects such as the ocean and the sea have an I–Thou relationship with their Lord. Even the sea and the ocean are in direct second-personal relationship with the loving God who made them.
And if this is true of the ocean and the sea, then how much more is it true of each one of us? So faith is not the bare belief that there is a God. Faith is the willingness, in trust, to say “you” to God, as God says “you” to each one of us.
In this I–Thou relationship with the good and loving Creator of all there is, what is left to fear?
Whether we live or die, whether we sorrow or are at ease, we stand in joy in the love of our Lord.
And that is why we do not have to be afraid.