So we must not be paralysed by the storm, hide in the bowels of our ship, never venturing on deck to get the measure of the tempests that rage outside and within. At those times when we stand on some dangerous edge of things – in personal life, in world crises, the first thing is to imitate the mariners at the start of the Tempest and cry out, ‘to prayers, to prayers!’: like the disciples, the vessel we are sailing is so tiny and the sea is so terrifying and big. But as we face our fear, assess the danger, say our prayers and help one another to find strength, we find that Christ was hidden in the darkness all along, and is there beside us, rebuking but also cheering us: ‘where is your faith?’
The tornados and tsunamis of life put hard choices to us that call for hard decisions. When the crisis comes, do we have the spiritual resources to respond? Even in the storm, especially then, we need to keep the doors of perception open so that God can come anew to us, as he did to the possessed man by the lake and to the disciples in the boat. The Lord’s Prayer that we utter every day has as its focus how we fare in the time of trial, how we endure Gethsemane when we cry in despair, ‘let this cup pass from me’. When it comes to our great ordeals, what would we do? What shall we do?
This is where Christian character is tested. And I wonder, as I hear the news day by day and feel profoundly despondent about it, whether my Christianity is being called to some test of resilience and maturity it has never had to undergo before. This is no time for easy religion, play-acting our Christian profession. Our faith needs to go to the heart and change us. This is why we need those Benedictine virtues of stability, obedience and conversion of life in our churches and our personal lives. They shape us to live by the values of the gospel, so that life is transformed and we begin to make a difference in the world: as Benedict did, holding on for dear life as the world fell apart around him, yet never despairing of the mercy of God. Which is why, when big storms break against the shores of our complacency, and we are shaken by earthquake, wind and fire, we need to hear the voice that calls out to us, ‘where is your faith?’, the still small voice that gives us the strength not to be afraid. And then, God willing, we shall live to praise his name, and tell how much he has done for us.
Durham Cathedral, 8 February 2015, Genesis 2.4a-end, Luke 8: 22-39