Jonah was a very important person in the primitive Church since he is a figure of
Jesus Christ. Many Catholics may have never read the Book of Jonah (only four
chapters) nor have a familiarity with his life. The Gospel of this Sunday (Mark 4:35-41)
has many parallels, and contrasts with the experience of Jonah and it is good to draw this
out. The people of Jesus’ time would not have missed the comparison.
When Jonah was called to go to Nineveh and preach repentance he ran away to
Tarshish, which means the end of the world. He got on the first boat he found to get
away from God. However, God sent such a great storm at sea that the boat almost broke
in two and each man was praying to his god to save them. The captain found Jonah in the
hull of the ship and reprimanded him saying, ‘get up and call on your god or we will die.’
The sailors found out by lot that Jonah was the cause of their distress and he offered to
throw himself over, ‘I know it is my fault that this storm has struck you.’ They followed
his advice, and when they saw how the sea calmed down they also prayed to the God of
In the Gospel this week we see something similar. Jesus is also asleep on the boat
with his disciples, and he seems oblivious to their difficulties. They wake him up and he
rebuked the sea with one word: Quiet! And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.
The power of Jesus Christ is evident. He doesn’t throw himself over; he says one word
and calm is restored. Something greater than Jonah is present for us today in this Gospel,
and in our life; it is Jesus Christ. Who is the only one who can order the wind and the
sea? Only God, who else can? The question, ‘Who then is this whom the wind and sea
obey? is rhetorical. It is obvious that only God can do this, and this man must be God, or
at least God is working strongly through him.
St. Augustine has a beautiful homily on this Gospel, and I am sure he does not
mind if I take some of his ideas. We are also sailors in a boat of the Church and we
suffer shipwreck if our thoughts on not on God and his goodness. When a person insults
you, that is the wind, and if you get angry or depressed, that is the wave. When the wind
blows and the waves swell the ship is endangered and you can be turned upside down.
Augustine says, very wisely, if you have a reaction of revenge to the insult then it means
Christ is asleep in your boat. Jesus Christ would never settle a score. Jesus says, ‘Give
and it will be given to you, forgive and you shall be forgiven.’ So if in our heart we seek
revenge or retribution, and we all do this, then Jesus Christ is asleep in our boat. With
Christ I would refrain from anger or wrath or getting even and peace will return to my
boat, as it did for Him.
So what should I do? Wake up Jesus Christ! Call out to him! You and I can say,
‘Jesus, wake up, help me!’ Maybe you and I have to say it a thousand times a day in
order to really mean it. But let us begin today!
You can take the interpretation, the thinking of this Gospel as a norm. What St.
Augustine said about anger is true of any other bad habit. A person can say, when I am
down, or lonely, or suffer a set back, I tend to resort to anger, depression, alcohol,
pornography, video games or useless distractions, and I give in to it. And this Gospel
says I have a better answer: call on Jesus Christ, wake him up. Don’t try to do it yourself,
you can’t. But Jesus Christ can, call on him! Come to Mass or something during the
week, open the Bible or listen to Relevant Radio, call on Christ in some way.
Don’t you see that if the wind and the sea obey him so will your anger or your
fears. When a crisis comes (and they are always good for us) don’t despair, call of Jesus
Christ and peace will return, the sea will be tranquil, your heart will be one with God’s.