POPE FRANCIS, on Friday evening, March 27, shared his meditation on the calming of the storm from the Gospel of Mark during the prayer service on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica to “urbi et orbi,” which means to the “city and the world”.
This is such a timely message when the whole world is full of fear and uncertainties brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, which as of press time, has infected 566,000+ globally, and killed 1,545+ after it was first reported just three months ago, in December of 2019.
Here in the United States, the confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 100,000 with a death toll of more than 25,000. The United States is now the hotspot of the pandemic in the world.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, the hotspot of the pandemic in the United States, said that given the facts and present circumstances, the outbreak is expected to reach its apex in about three weeks, which means things will get worse before it gets better. This is the path the rest of the country will have to navigate.
Pope Francis, in his “urbi et orbi” gave a special blessing to the world after sharing a very poignant reflection, comparing what we are all now going through to being in a boat amid an unexpected turbulent storm in the sea.
In the Gospel of Mark, the apostles were so afraid for their life, and they could not fathom why in the midst of of this tempest, Jesus was sleeping and they tried to wake Him up saying, “We are perishing”, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”
Then Pope Francis then continued on saying, “When [Jesus] 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?”
Pope Francis reflected:
“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!”.
Then the pope articulated what could perhaps be the most difficult test of our faith, especially for us who are Christians, who say we believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, of all visible and invisible…”
“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.
“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 flounder: 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.”
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.”
This reflection of the pope is indeed a wake-up call for us to re-think the meaning of “faith in God” in our lives. I do not think the pope is asking us to deny the natural and normal human feelings of fear, worry, doubt especially during the most difficult times of our lives, like what we are now going through as people all over the world.
Instead, I think the pope is asking us to use the very energy we spend worrying, and fearing and doubting for prayer. Praying to our one God, who we call the “Almighty” who is watching over us. Such reconnection with God fills us up with strength, faith and hope, trusting that God will make everything work out for the good. It is this FAITH and TRUST in God that moves God’s miracle in motion in our life.
God is expecting us to faithfully do what we can do on our own to help us in our circumstances — like social distancing, staying at home, washing our hands, listening to facts from scientists and experts, and obeying our local government’s orders that will help contain the outbreak for the community.
Then trust God will do what we cannot do on our own. Rest and have peace in that assurance, in that promise..
“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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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at [email protected], or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.