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Molly CahillJuly 02, 2023
old man and the sea in a skiff stock photo(Photo from iStock)

A Reflection for Tuesday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Why are you terrified, O you of little faith?” (Mt 8:26)

Find today’s readings here.

Over the past few days, the Supreme Court has issued a series of contentious decisions, ones that will impact the well-being of many Americans. I have a bit of deja vu as I take all of this in. I’m remembering how, right around this time last year, the landmark decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned Roe v. Wade. Working in media ministry at America, my memories of that time are defined not so much by my own personal feelings about the case; they’re characterized much more by what I observed while watching public reaction unfold.

It is puzzling to watch a divided country roar in the wake of Supreme Court decisions in late June and then to celebrate the ideals of our nation’s founding in early July. In fact, last year I wrote about not feeling very patriotic at all on this holiday. However you may feel about a particular case or election’s outcome, the aftermath reveals such disunity. I know I’m not alone when I say that the state of affairs scares me, and the sheer scale of our national chaos often makes me feel like I have nowhere to go with my fear.

That’s where today’s Gospel passage found me.

It is puzzling to watch a divided country roar in the wake of Supreme Court decisions in late June and then to celebrate the ideals of our nation’s founding in early July.

Oftentimes, when Scripture urges us not to be afraid, I feel like the message falls flat. After all, when the world is so often dangerous, can’t it be true that being afraid means we are properly paying attention? On this one, I’m with the disciples in today’s readings. It’s only fair to be scared when you’re at sea and suddenly surrounded by what Matthew calls a “violent storm.” We’re humans, we’re fallible. The power of nature can easily overtake us. In a situation like this, fear is only a natural response.

But fear isn’t in God’s vocabulary. For Jesus, nature’s power is not too much. While he understands human suffering, it is not his whole story. In the eye of a storm, Matthew tells us that Christ has the power to bring total calm. (Please, can I have some?)

Having a relationship with God might not prevent us from experiencing fear, but it gives us somewhere to go with it. Like the disciples in today’s readings, we will feel afraid, and then we can confide in a God who understands us but who does things we can’t comprehend.

Our country’s chaos is long from over, and the fear I felt last year and today is one I am likely to feel again tomorrow and next year. But with God, this trepidation does not have to run my life. There is a place where I can put it down, even if only for a minute in prayer, and pick up just a bit of God’s state of calm to take with me on the journey ahead.

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