I received my fifth chemo yesterday, sleeping through most of the six hour infusion while listening to “All Things Bright and Beautiful” as wonderfully read by Christopher Timothy. I say “listening” but I was mostly drifting in and out of the story and I still have most of those six hours to revisit over the next few days. Once I returned home I thought I would take a little nap before supper. It turned out that I was done for the night, awaking at 3:30 a.m. to take out my contacts and put on my pjs.
I was finally awake for prayers with the community at 6:15 and found the gospel for today particularly appropriate. It is the familiar “Jesus walks on the water and calms the seas” (Mark 6:45-52) I needed to hear Jesus say, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” But the entire passage brought a helpful reflection in light of the way I had slept through my treatment day.
Jesus had just fed the five thousand but he sent the disciples off in the boat and headed to the hills alone to pray. They were obviously still on his mind and in his heart during his time of communion with the Father, because he noticed they were having a rough time making progress against the winds. Why then, having left his time of prayer to go to them, does Jesus seem to be walking on by? It is only when their cries of terror reach him (not a direct request for help!) that he speaks to them. And the seas apparently don’t settle down until he is in the boat.
These are the points that connect with my experience of the past twenty-four hours. First: Jesus knows the rough times ahead of us. He is close at hand, watching us try to make our way under our own power. Second: Sometimes we lack the ability to even help with the rowing. We depend on the strength and energy of those near us to carry us over the rough waters. That would be me, sleeping while everyone else was concerned with details of supper and whether I needed anything. But Jesus can even relate to this as he also was famously asleep in the boat while the storm raged. Third: Jesus doesn’t even need an invitation to get into the boat. Our fears are enough to draw him. John says in today’s first reading, “Perfect love casts out fear.” In the gospel, it seems to me, we see how fear draws in Perfect Love.
The gospel ends with the disciples being astounded but sadly unable to understand because their hearts were hardened. On this traditional day of Epiphany, may we know the breakthrough of Love in our lives and take the courage we are offered.