We celebrate the first martyrs of Rome during the persecution of Nero who blamed Christians when people suspected he started the great fire that burned Rome. Christians were an easy target for government officials because many officials did not know nor understand what the Christians believed and Christians were supposed to be pacifists who would not retaliate when attacked. At that time, Nero would burn Christians as torches to light the roads of Rome at night. It was a time of great persecution, fear and death for the Church. Yet, despite all these, the Church flourished and Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers says the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. We may not be called to shed our blood for our faith, but the way we live also proclaims our faith in Christ.
In the First Reading, Amos tells us there is always a reason for something that happens. Amos also says The Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. Pope Benedict XVI describes a prophet as someone who sees God. This means that those who see God will know the thoughts of God. Jesus is the Son of God and does not only reveal the thoughts of God, but he reveals God himself.
We see this in the Gospel reading today where he lays asleep in the midst of a windstorm that was so bad it made seasoned fishermen, who know this sea to fear for their lives. Jesus shows us, in the midst of the storm, we can find rest when we come to him and ask Lord, save us! We are perishing. This is the God who loves us, who is with us in time of violent storms in our lives. He is the God who saves.
We see today, people destroying cities, promoting death in the womb and for the elderly and vulnerable, promoting sexual immorality, and persecuting Christians. Sometimes these persecutions come from those within the Church when we speak the Truth of Christ. These persecutions will not stop and will continue to intensify in the coming months. When confronted with these, we feel hopeless and scared of the uncertainty, of the violence, so what are we to do? We run to Jesus and ask him to save us.
Most often, the storms we face are in our everyday life: financial storms perhaps, health, mental or spiritual or psychological, we may have done all we can and still are not able to get out of the storm. We may be overwhelmed, engulfed by problems that seem to have no end or escape. What do we do? We come to Jesus and tell him, Lord, save us! We are perishing!
In the Gospel, Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea and there was dead calm. There was peace. They were still in the boat on water. When we come to Jesus, he calms the winds and sea. We will still be in the same place, but what changes is the presence of Jesus and the power of Jesus. The presence of Jesus gives us confidence to trust him. When Jesus calmed the winds and sea, the disciples ask what sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him.
Sufferings lead us to ask or search for the person of God. Are you in a situation that is chaotic? Are you confronted with something that terrifies you? The First Martyrs of Rome physically died, they now live in eternal glory with Jesus, because they trusted Jesus even to the point of giving up their lives for him. The God of heaven and earth, whose name is above every other name is with you. You may not feel this. But faith is not based on feeling. We go beyond feeling and look at the facts. When we have Jesus, there is nothing to fear. Even in the midst of our fear, we proclaim what the Communion Antiphon says The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my saving strength. God is with us in the storm. Do not be afraid. The Gospel acclamation today say: I hope in the Lord. I trust in his word. Come to Jesus, trust Jesus.
Lord, I am in the midst of a big storm in my life. And no matter what I do, only darkness and death surround me. Yet I will trust in you. I come to you begging you Lord, save me, I am perishing. Lord, rebuke the things that make me afraid. Give me the peace only you can give.