A STORM BY THE LAKE
Jesus: ...And then this Samaritan came with his camel!
Zebedee: Well, guys, this is enough for now, donít you think?... Letís end all these stories; tomorrow we gotta start work early. Címon, letís all go to sleep.
John: Hey, old man, donít be a ďkill joy.Ē Go to sleep if you want, and leave us alone... What happened again to the Samaritan, Jesus?
Jesus: Well, this man goes and...
Zebedee: Donít you have ears? I told you to go to sleep!... You sleep so late and then doze off in the boat. You, Jesus from Nazareth, will you shut up now and reserve your stories for the next time?
John: Just let him finish with this one, old man. Heís half way through it. Come on, what happened to the Samaritan?
Zebedee: No. If you wanna end your story, get up early tomorrow morning so you can go fishing with us. In the boat, you can tell us all the stories you want. But now, this small talk is finished, do you hear?
We would always get together with Jesus to play dice, to hear his stories and laugh at jokes he already told several times. Sometimes we would meet at Peterís house, and other times, at Zebedeeís, my old manís house, to take time out from the dayís work. The wee hours of the night simply slipped away without our knowing it.
Peter: Yes, why not, Jesus? Come and join us in our fishing tomorrow. Ever since you came to Capernaum, you never dipped your finger into the water.
Jesus: Who, me? Go fishing? No way. Thatís not my cup of tea, but yours, lake men. I know nothing about it.
Zebedee: Itís high time you learned, dammit! ďThereís always time for learning,Ē as my late father used to say.
Salome: Yeah, he always said that, but he never learned himself. He was more stupid than a laborer!
Jesus: No Peter, leave me alone with my bricks and tools. We from the inland are not real lovers of water.
John: Cheer up, Moreno! Thereís always a first time.
Peter: Tomorrow will be a good day for fishing, yes sir.
James: Iím not sure about that, Peter. They say that the Great Coffer is shaking...
Salome: You donít have to go very far then. Today the sun was as red as tomato, which is a bad sign.
Peter: What nonsense are you talking about? The lake is as still as a poor manís jawbone!
James: This lake is treacherous, Peter. Everythingís so quiet and the wind from Mount Carmel will suddenly come pounding down the lake.
Peter: Donít be a soothsayer, James. I tell you, the weatherís very fine.
James: Philemon, the crippled, was called a soothsayer, and where is he now? Buried at the bottom of the lake!
Peter: Go to hell, red head! The weather has been fine today, and itíll even be better tomorrow!
James: I bet thereís gonna be a storm tomorrow! The Great Cofferís shaking!
Zebedee: Hell, thatís enough! If youíre not with stories, youíre fighting. Go to sleep everybody! We gotta get up early to work!
The Great Coffer was the name given to a number of rocks found between Bethsaida and Capernaum. The old seamen used to say that from there, they could hear the agitated waves of the Great Sea whenever a storm was approaching...
Zebedee: Címon, lazy bones, get up!... Didnít I tell you?... Now you can continue with your storytelling sessions!... On your toes, everyone!
It was only about four oíclock in the morning when my father, Zebedee, was already starting to wake us all up...
Zebedee: Hey, you, Nazarene, didnít you say you were coming, too?... Well, hurry up!... Rub that dirt off your eyes and move fast...
After taking some hot root soup that Salome had prepared, we headed toward the wharf, as we always did, everyday....
Zebedee: To the boats, guys, for the weatherís good and we gotta take advantage! Todayís gonna be a lucky day!
We sailed out in two boats and, with our big nets, headed toward the lake. Peter, James, my father Zebedee, Jesus and I were on the first boat. On the second were Andrew with the twins, and old Jonas. The last of the evening stars were still shining in the sky. Gradually, we were moving away from the shore as we paddled through the lake. The wind barely blew and the sail was hanging by the mast.
Zebedee: Hey, John, whatís the matter with that fellow? Look at his face...
John: Heís as white as flour...
Peter: Farm people are not used to this... They get dizzy with the splash of water...
James: Or theyíre scared of the water!
John: Hey Moreno, why donít you lie down over there, maybe your fearíll go away!
James: Itíll pass. Leave him alone...
Zebedee: The net, guys, get the net ready!... My nose is telling me thereís a school of goldfish over here. Strengthen the buoys, Peter... You, James, loosen up a little... Hey, you guys on the other boat, letís all cast the net!...
While we were getting the big net ready, Jesus went near the rail and held on with his two hands. He was very dizzy... Later, he threw himself down on the headrest of the stern and curled himself up on it. Soon he fell asleep...
James: Hmmm.... I donít like this... the wind is blowing strongÖ
John: Yeah, all of a sudden itís blowing very hard...
Zebedee: Take in the sail a little, if you donít want the wind to sweep us like what happened to Habakkuk!... Peter, donít let go of the net, ícuz itís loaded with needlefish!... Pull hard!
James: For the love of Satan, this wind is blowing still harder! A storm is brewing!
Zebedee: Damn, gather all the oars and letís go back to the shore! These waves are going to swallow all of us!
Peter: You guys on the other boat!... Jonas!... Pull in the net and letís go! A storm is coming!
Jonas: Alright! Weíre going ahead! Good luck!
Zebedee: Dammit! This guyís still sleeping?!... Look at him... heís all curled up like a frog!
John: Hey, Jesus, wake up!... Thereís a storm coming... one of the worst, I guess... You better get up... Hey, heís not moving... I think heís dead!
Peter: Heís scared to death, thatís what he is... Poor guy, this is the first time that he went fishing!
Jesus: How did I ever get into this, huh?
Zebedee: Our man has finally resurrected. Whatís he saying?
John: What were you saying, Moreno?
Jesus: I was asking how I ever got into this mess!
Peter: Whatís the matter, Jesus? Are you scared?
Jesus: Of course, what do you think?
Zebedee: What about the story you were telling us last night? Come on, tell us now!
James: Damn, these waves will ruin our sail!
The stern suddenly creaked terribly. A huge wave lifted us into the air, hurling the boat back into the lake, amid the stormís fury. We were drenched to the bones. Peter and I hurriedly fastened the sail, but unfortunately missed, and it was torn to pieces. The wind blew before us, shaking our boat violently each time.
James: I told you, Peter, I told you not to set out into the lake today, as the Great Coffer was trembling!
Peter: Go to hell, James! How was I supposed to know that?
James: Thatís because youíre so stubborn! I warned you not to go away from the shore! But youíre so stupid, you even brought more men than ever on the boat! This boatís gonna sink because of our weight!
John: Well, why donít you throw yourself into the water to lighten our load?
James: Take it easy, ícuz before long weíll be joining the crip¨pled Philemon down there, and itís all your fault. Díya hear?
Peter: Listen, beast: no one expected this to happen!
James: Oh really? Didnít you see the sun turn red, redder than my hair, yesterday?
Peter: Then why did you come, imbecile? You couldíve stayed behind!
James: So Iím the stupid one, am I? You deserve a punch in the nose!
Peter: Just try, you pig and youíll know who I am!
James: I warned you about the Great Coffer!
Jesus: Thatís enough, James!!!... and shut up, Peter!! To hell with both of you! Why donít you do something instead of bickering with one another? Weíre all going to drown here and you waste time arguing on whoís right....
Zebedee: Well said, Jesus! These twoíre wasting their energy! I wonder which is worse: to face the storm or to put up with these two nuts!... Címon guys, letís take a turn toward the starboard... if we row with all our might, then we can save our skin! Each one take his own oar and weíll row at the same time!... Harder, fellas, letís go, yahhhh!
Zebedee: God helps those who help themselves... letís go, yahhh!... Push harder, come on, yahhh! (Yahhh!)
As though it were Beelzebubís neck, go, yahhha! (Yahhh!!)
Donít stop, dammit, letís go, yahhh! (Yahhh!!)
Donít be scared, just go, yahhh! (Yahhhhh!!)
Men of little faith, go, yahhh! (Yahhh!!)
Up with our faith and down with the oars, go, yahh! (Yahh!!)
Old Zebedee led us in synchronizing the rowing of our boats. Gradually, in full force and with our veins about to explode, we were advancing in the midst of that dark and stormy sea... Since he did not know how to row, Jesus was given a jar to bail out the water that entered the boat....
After our long bout with the waves, when the storm had calmed down, we saw the darkened rocks along the coast. Slowly, we touched bottom with our oars as we drew near the rocky ground which formed an opening between the cliffs... Not too far away, we could see a small city....
Peter: Look, imagine where weíve landed? Weíre on the other side of the lake! This is Gerasa.
James: Gerasa? What the hell am I doing here? This is the land of pigs!
Zebedee: Rejoice that youíve finally touched land, even if it belongs to the Gerasenes! By now, you might have already swallowed a lot of shellfish!
John: Thatís true, old man. That wouldíve been scary!
Zebedee: It was the Nazarene who mustíve been really scared, alright...
Peter: When that strong wind nearly smashed us on the side, you were nearly scared to death, werenít you Jesus?
Jesus: The truth is, I was never so scared in my life!
James: Donít laugh now, Peter, but you also smell like piss!
Peter: Well, listen... Jesus was like the captain of the boat when he yelled at us and said: ďThatís enough and shut up!...Ē I think even the sea was scared by that scream and so it calmed down.
Zebedee: Come on, guys, letís take something to warm our stomachs. Letís see if these pagans are hospitable enough to attend to castaways like us!
Many years later, everytime we remembered that storm in the lake, Peter would say that the huge waves calmed down when Jesus yelled. I donít know, my fear then was so great that I couldnít remember what happened exactly. There was only one thing I was sure of: that each day, the Moreno seemed to us an extraordinary human being. From him we learned how to be united in order to overcome any difficulty.
The geographical structure of the Lake of Galilee beside the River Jordan, flanked on the north by tall mountains, hastens the formation of heavy storms accompanied sometimes by hurricanes and huge waves. Peter and his companions, like expert seamen, knew, by means of different signs Ė the color of the sky, the windís direction Ė the possibility of an impending storm. Nevertheless, since these storms come unexpectedly, they could not ever really be absolutely sure.
We cannot read all the texts of the Bible, whether of the Old or New Testament, in the same manner, and use the same criteria. The Bible, besides being the Word of God (and this does not always mean ďhistorical wordĒ), is a collection of stories which the people of Israel have transmitted from parents to children, through the centuries until such time that they were put into writing. In these accounts, the people tell us what they have lived, felt, thought and sung. Consequently, there are books that are considered historical narratives, others are religious outlines or sketches, or catechetical summaries, theological outlines, refrains, and others, poetry. These are what we call the ďliterary genresĒ of the Bible. Not taking this into account, one may, out of confusion, look only for ďwhat happenedĒ in the Scripture, what is strictly historical, while the deeper meaning of faith found in the symbolic teaching of a number of accounts, may lose out.
The Gospels tell us of six miracles Jesus did ďabout nature.Ē The sign that Jesus did was not regarding a person to be cured, but about the physical elements. In one of these accounts Jesus calms a storm, simply by raising his voice. In each of these texts, there is an attempt to come up with an outline for catechesis in order to transmit an idea....
It must be remembered that for the Israelite mentality, the sea Ė like the lake of Tiberias Ė was considered a haven of the bad spirits, the demons, the powerful and occult forces which represented danger for people. That Jesus was able to calm the waves is a symbol of power which God had given him. It was a way of proclaiming that He was the Messiah, the Lord, and therefore a way of saying that a poor peasantís weakness, like that of Jesus, is stronger than all the powers working against the community.
It is likewise true Ė and this is the central message of this episode Ė that the weakness of the poor is strengthened and efficient when the poor are united, when they become organized, when they row together in the same direction. Before such criticisms against power, ďthe miraclesĒ that control lightning and thunder, are always acts of unity.
(Mt 8:23-27; Mk 4:35-41; Lk 8:22-25)