Silence in the Storm

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

Have you ever heard five hundred teenagers singing? As a music minister, it’s not always easy to pull off. When I worked in a Catholic high school, there was one song that nearly everybody always sang, whether it was in the Mass, on retreat, or at a prayer service: “Oceans” by Hillsong, the music ministry of an Australian evangelical church. Here are some lines of the refrain: “And I will call upon Your name. Keep my eyes above the waves when oceans rise.”

I spent a lot of time considering why this song roused an instinctive response in so many students, regardless of grade, race, and social clique. In many ways, I think this simple song reflects the cry of the human heart. We all, at times, feel storm-tossed and unconsoled. The song isn’t just about our effort to reach out to Christ, but the steadfast presence of God as we brave the unknown.

I don’t know the history of the song, but I have no doubt it was at least somewhat inspired by today’s Gospel. Jesus has spent time alone, consoled in his weariness by the presence of his Father, and he returns to his friends by night, supernaturally walking on the waves of a stormy sea. Peter, in a classic display of bold faith, trusts that if the figure really is Jesus, than he too can walk on the water. His Lord will do the miraculous, keep him from sinking.

Do we have this trust? I don’t know about you, but too often the storms of life keep me in the boat. Have you ever felt inspired to do something new, a little out of the ordinary? Maybe it’s volunteer with a population you don’t normally associate with. Maybe you’ve seen a new family at the parish and you’ve felt a tug to invite them to dinner. Maybe you know you should spend more intentional time with your own storm-tossed teenage child. How often do we hear these invitations, but remain in the boat?

Our doubts can be loud. Whether it’s rude workplacesnegative self-talk, or the digital noise that fills our televisions and newsfeeds, it can feel like there are storms wherever we go—in society, in our families, and in our own heads.

In the first reading, Elijah recognizes that God is speaking in the silence. When the wind howls, wildfire rages, and it feels like the mountain is coming down, Elijah waits it out. God is whispering through the noise.

The question for us today is not: “Does God speak into our storms?” But: “Do we trust him to do so?” I’m reminded of a line of philosopher Søren Kierkegaard from one of his journals, “Lord, calm the waves in this breast, subdue the storm! Be still, my soul, so that the divine can work within you!”

It’s easy for teenage emotions to surge at a particularly relevant song, but it would be a mistake for us to consider a cry of the heart immature. Whether we remain in the boat or we get too impulsive and start to sink, we are in good company when we cry out to God, “Lord, save me!” God is waiting at the edge of the cave. He is waiting for us on the waves. He invites us to step forward in faith, to be drawn into new expressions of love, charity, and trust. In the depths of your heart’s silence, do you trust him enough to listen and follow?

Anna Carter


Lord, calm the waves in this breast, subdue the storm!
Be still, my soul, so that the divine can work within you!
Be still, my soul, so that God may rest within you,
that his peace may overshadow you.
Yes, Father in heaven, experience has told us
often enough that the world cannot give us peace.
O! but let us feel that you can give peace;
let us perceive the truth of the promise
that the whole world cannot take your peace from us.

— Christ Walks Upon the Water prayer by Søren Kierkegaard.