In the eye of the Storm
Painting by Abraham Hunter,
Painted in 2017
Oil on canvas
© Abraham Hunter Art
Even the wind and the sea obey him
With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’
Reflection on the painting
The lake-crossing scene in our Gospel reading by Mark serves as an opportunity for Jesus to reveal more about Himself. A great storm arises. Remembering that most disciples were very familiar with being on boats and fishing, they are rather worried about the storm. This is no ordinary storm. Jesus rebukes the storm with the same authority as He did when he rebuked evil spirits. But it is the last part of the reading which is the interesting part. Mark’s description of the disciples and their worries has a way of unsettling us as readers. If the closest companions of Jesus, given the privilege they enjoyed from viewing and hearing Jesus up close, are panicking and doubting, then how can we two thousand years later expect to make sense of everything? This reading therefore is a warning that we cannot be overconfident or be overly certain that we know what it takes to qualify as an insider in God’s reign. We may feel confident that we are in the right boat close to Jesus, but at times that boat will be shaken by storms. Our faith will get challenged at times.
There are many good reasons to be confident when we try to live our lives in Christ. We try to be loyal and dedicated. But being confident does not mean being without concern! We need humility in our confidence and trust in Christ. If we insist we are confident, then we lose alertness. We need to be vigilant, prudent, awake and accept that there are dangers around us. Confidence is good. Overconfidence not.
Our painting today is by Abraham Hunter, a self-taught artist, specialising in American wildlife painting. Living in Knoxville, Tennessee, he paints in a highly realistic manner. About this painting he wrote: "Sometimes we all live behind a “mask” to cover up the storm in our lives and the pain we are facing. Behind my mask and persona, my life was so tough and, quite honestly, just dark last year and at the beginning of this year. Probably the only time that comes close in comparison was when my family was homeless and in extreme poverty when I was a kid. This spring has been far better but still a big challenge as I’ve dealt with a colicky newborn, the struggle as a young father to find a work and life balance, falling behind in my work, health issues, handling criticisms from almost all fronts, and the other stresses of life that I won’t even start to get in to. No matter what I’ve achieved in my life, I’ve always felt like I had to keep fighting the current so I don’t drown, and with everything piling up I’ve just felt so confused and overwhelmed. I know most everyone reading this has been in the same boat before."
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“Sometimes we all live behind a “mask” to cover up the storm in our lives and the pain we are facing.” This quote moves me. I struggle to balance between sharing my pain and not wanting to burden others, who have their own problems. Does it mean I lack faith to reveal to others that I am feeling pain? I believe God will get me through my storms, but sometimes I get scared nonetheless.
I can relate most days lately. I find great solace in Divine Mercy Chaplet “Jesus I Trust In YOU”.
Just for some encouragement…Jesus stilled the storm…He has the power to tell our personal storms to be still, to be quiet.
Well the disciples were worried and so are we from time to time. People keep up this public front as the artist described. I once discussed a major family crisis with our parish priest who listened with sympathy but he ended by telling me that there were an awful lot of people in his parish having serious problems in life. It have me a bit of perspective.
Thank you Patrick. Christian art needs all the help and support it can get. And prayers.
Yes, I have been in that boat in that storm. I have struggled, I was overwhelmed, confused; I cried and used bad language, yelled: “God, help me!” With other words: I have lived my life.
Now I am old and know that everything is temporary and God’s help is always near. Thank you, sweet Jesus, for your help, your comfort and your strength.
I must confess to not being over-fond of overtly religious paintings like this. Modern religious paintings may be rare, but I feel that often they aren’t very good either. Maybe it’s me. The reading, however, is one of my favourites. It never ceases to convey that message of trust, and not a little fear.
I like the different tones of blue. De gustibus …
I also think it’s good to support contemporary religious artists.
I know what you mean…
What a stunning painting. And thank you for your insightful reflection.
Thank you Jo.
It is good that there are still artists painting these narrative Christian paintings today. They should get all the encouragement they can.
Pray for Christian artists.