Extraordinary moment of Prayer

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For
weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and
our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing
void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their
glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we
were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the
same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us
called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just
like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we
too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude.
While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of
the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly,
trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes
up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why
are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).


Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with
Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how
they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that
Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our
families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and
unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone,
cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their
discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around
which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around
which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us
how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and
strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and
forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with
ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in
touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive
ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always
worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common
belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us,
all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed,
feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in
things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken
awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing
planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that
we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

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“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is
not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call
reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are
calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement,
but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate
what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you,
Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even
though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and
fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value
and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often
forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand
catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive
events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of
transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many
others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much
suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly
prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising
patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many
fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures,
how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering
prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet
service: these are our victorious weapons.

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“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation.
We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators
needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him
so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there
will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens
to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice
that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when
everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter
faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we
have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that
nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we
are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so
many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by
our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards
those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not
quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.
Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time,
abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the
creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces
where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity
and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen
and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others.
Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear
and gives us hope.

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“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of
Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the
intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that
embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling
embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You
ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at
the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter,
“cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).


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