It was the last dawn prayer of the year and once again I found myself in a room with fellow church leaders. For your information, the EDC meets on the first Saturday morning of each month. We begin with a time of contemplation as we listen to a passage of Scripture being read aloud. We would then pray over it and for other matters that may be upon our hearts before ending the morning with breakfast fellowship. The Scripture passage for that morning was the familiar text on Jesus calming the storm based on Mark’s account. Well, it was all too familiar and so nothing struck me at the first reading. Then I recalled the Ignatian Contemplation exercise that is suited especially for the gospels and so decided to immerse myself into the story as if I were there in the boat with Jesus and paying attention to details like sights, sounds, tastes, smells and emotions.
And so the second reading began and there I was in the boat when I suddenly realised that we were not alone. There were actually other boats with us. Why had it not occurred to me before that there were other boats? Well, I confess that I am not really a contemplative person, i.e. to be able to keep still and let the Spirit speaks to my heart, mind and soul. I am more of an analytical person, i.e. like a good old engineer, I tend to work through the text by dissecting bits and pieces and examining the parts in relation to the whole. And so I got back to the real world and began flipping through the Bible discreetly so as not to disturb the others. Then I found out why. The other boats were not mentioned in the parallel accounts found in Matthew and Luke. I also discovered other things that are written only in Mark’s account. Suddenly what was supposed to be familiar became all too unfamiliar. Then the third and final reading was about to begin. What should I do?
Well, I decided to ‘teleport’ myself back in order to catch a glimpse of the people in the other boats. Surely there had to be people on board and I was curious to find out who they were. Sad to say, Ignatian Contemplation is not some kind of magical mean or device that allows the person to see visually what had actually happened in the past or will happen in the future. Don’t we all wish that such a thing exists? But as it is, it takes faith to believe the things recorded in the Bible. And so the third reading began and I was on the lookout for the other boats. But nothing else was mentioned about them as attention was drawn to the one boat that mattered. However I realised that the other boats were also caught in the storm and I could sense the people were frightened as well. But Jesus wasn’t in their boats and so what could they do? It was all up to the ones on board with Jesus. Then I heard them said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” I saw two things that had never occurred to me before.
First, I saw them accusing Jesus and their tone just wasn’t right. I had always thought that they were crying out to Jesus to save them. Second, I saw them justifying their accusation by pointing out to the other boats. I had always thought that the twelve were the only ones caught in the storm. So did Jesus not care that they were all about to perish? But come on, didn’t they know that he was tired after a long day of teaching? Couldn’t they trust him that they would get to the other side of the lake just as he had said? Where was their faith after having witnessed how he had healed many and cast out demons? So I could imagine the disciples getting an earful from the Lord.
But Jesus’ response was even more shocking to me. For instead of rebuking the disciples for their lack of faith or disturbing his sleep, he actually rebuked the wind and calmed the sea as if they were at fault for frightening the disciples. Then I heard him asked his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Somehow his tone just wasn’t right as well. I had always thought that Jesus was angry as he questioned his disciples. Instead I saw him asked in a gentle and reassuring manner that filled the disciples not with shame as if they were caught stealing but great fear, the kind of reverent fear that overwhelms a person when he suddenly realises the King is standing right before him. And with that, my contemplation came to an ‘awe-ful’ end.
That morning, I did not say a single word as my soul was being tossed around by the wind and the waves. So it was good that breakfast was not arranged. It took me a while to pen down my adventure with Jesus and the disciples. Now that the year is drawing to a close soon, allow me to end with three things for us to ask and ponder as we look forward to a whole new year:
- Have I accused Jesus of not caring when sorrows like sea billows roll? Remember, the Lord is teaching me to say, “It is well with my soul.”
- Have I still not realised that there are people around me who do not have Jesus and hence are perishing? Remember, the Lord is able to save. So what should I do then?
- When was the last time that I found myself filled with great fear for who Jesus is? Remember, if I have trouble answering this, then I must have been the one sleeping all along.
Rev Ronnie Ang
December 27, 2015