Commenting on the state of the world today, sometimes people will say things like, “the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” This idiomatic expression means that there are so many problems and everything is headed in such a bad direction that the world will end up in a terrible catastrophe. We can think of the wars, epidemics, economic turmoil, political chaos, moral decline, famine, natural disasters, poverty, crime, and many other problems which seem to be getting worse and worse, and it is difficult at times to avoid the feeling that the world, and we with it, are headed for a bad outcome.

One way to look at the readings today is to see them as God addressing this concern directly. Looking at the first reading, we begin with the understanding that, for the people of Israel in biblical times, the sea was seen as a place of chaos, where strange monsters dwelt and powerful, unpredictable forces were at work. It was far from a safe place to be, and one took one’s life in one’s hands when venturing out into it. That God was able to control the sea was evidence of his great power. Thus, when Job was questioning God’s ways, part of God’s answer to him was to remind him that God is so far above human understanding and experience that even the sea must obey his commands.

The Psalm today gives us another witness of God’s power over the storms and the waves of the sea. And the lesson is made most explicit for us in the Gospel, in which Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea and they instantly obey him.

We can picture the disciples in the Gospel going out onto the sea, and then finding themselves in the midst of a terrible storm. The waves are getting higher and their boat is on the point of being swamped. There is nothing they can do – their situation is “going to hell in a handbasket” and they are terrified. But they have overlooked a critical factor: Jesus is with them! He has absolute power over the sea and everything else in creation. Because they either forgot this or did not fully believe it, Jesus challenges them, “Do you not yet have faith?”

This is the question for us as we look at all the problems in the world today. Do we have faith? The problems are indeed real and seem overwhelming, both in the world and sometimes in our own personal lives. On our own, the situation is hopeless. But Jesus is with us. He is in charge of the boat of our lives and of every detail of the circumstances surrounding us. He will not let us go to hell, in a handbasket or in any other way, if we cling to him.

Our problem is that we cling too much to our comfort and our plans. St. Paul exhorts us in the second reading to remember that we have died with Christ. We cannot continue living “according to the flesh.” “The old things have passed away,” so we should not cling to them. We should “live no longer for [ourselves] but for him who for [our] sake died and was raised.” Then we need no longer be terrified by the turmoil and chaos in the world. Jesus is with us, and he is in charge. Our trust is not in ourselves or in any earthly power but in him “whom even the wind and sea obey.”

Why do I cling to my comfort and my plans and not trust in the Lord? How do all the serious problems in the world affect me personally? What is my response to Jesus’ questions: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.