We all go through times of transition in our lives. Life is constantly evolving and we are always in a state of growth and transformation. Often we can find ourselves in new and challenging situations. Times of transition can be unsettling and even frightening to us. It can seem like we have left our safe havens behind – places, events and persons that are safe and comfortable for us – and that we have cast ourselves out on the open sea of change, a vast expanse of uncertainty and danger. Sacred Scripture often portrays these times of transition as crossings. Jacob crosses the Jabbok river and begins a new life as Israel, the children of Israel cross the Red Sea and become the people God, Joshua leads the people over the river into the Promised Land of Canaan, Elijah crosses the river with Elisha and is carried away into heaven, Jonah sets out on the sea to flee his calling and Jesus crosses the sea of Galilee on several occasions in his ministry and teaching. Times of crossing are often a time of testing and crisis. The sea of change and transition is often beset with storms and tempests. As we face an unknown future it can often seem to us that the winds are against us and that the circumstances of change are going to overwhelm us and destroy us. Sometimes it seems certain that the demands thrust upon us will be too much for us and that we will certainly perish.
“Let us cross to the other side.” (Mk 4,35) With these words in the gospel Jesus invites his disciples to set their sights on a farther shore and to set out on a voyage of transition and growth. The farther shore is a place of new life, a promising place that Jesus can see clearly but that is often beyond our limited vision. It is an invitation to put our lives at risk and set out on the open sea. Jesus calls his disciples to leave the safety of the crowd and to set out alone, “taking Jesus with them.” (Mk 4,36) It is a call to leave the world behind and to seek a new life with Jesus as our guide. As the disciples begin the crossing, a violent storm ensues. In the times of transition and crossing in our lives we are sure to face storms and difficulties, it is a part of life. The sea and the storm seem to come alive and threaten to overwhelm the disciples, even entering the boat (the church), stripping away their security. There is a clear contrast presented to us in the reaction of the disciples who are freaking out and the peace and calm of Jesus who is quietly resting on some cushions in the boat. Jesus is resting in the Father’s embrace and enjoys the “rest” of God.
The disciples fall into a common trap that we often face in times of crisis and difficulty in our lives. They begin to question whether God really cares for them. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4,38) When we face challenges and difficulties in our lives, when we are being tested and tried, we begin to question and doubt God’s love and grace. We put God to the test as the Israelites did at Massah and Meribah: “because the Israelites quarreled there and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord in our midst or not?’” (Ex 17,7) “This people’s heart goes astray, they do not know my ways. Therefore I swore in my anger: ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Ps 95,10f) When we put God to the test through our doubts and fears we shall never enter into his “rest”. God is always with us, watching over us and taking care of us. He will not forget us or forsake us. Jesus awakens, calms the storm and then questions the disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (Mk 4,40)
In times of transition, while we are riding out the storm, we need to have faith to safely make the crossing to the farther shore. This faith is a sure and certain trust in the Lord. If we have brought Jesus along, then we have nothing to worry about in this life, even though it seems like we might be overwhelmed. The Lord tells Job that he has set limits for the sea and its waves of change, “When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!” (Job 38,11) “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1Cor 10,13)
With Jesus in our lives, we have already crossed over to the farther shore. “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2Cor 5,17) Trust in God’s love and in his power to keep us safe in the difficult transitions of our life. You can make your crossings while enjoying the “rest” that Jesus promises those who come to him. (Mt 11,28ff)