Stand By Me

13 July 2006: Tuesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 8, 23-27: The Calming of the Storm

The Gospel today reminds me of "Stand By Me" a movie in 1986. The death of a friend, causes a writer --- Gordie --- to recall a boyhood journey he took in the summer of 1959 with three friends--- Chris, Teddy and Vern --- to find the dead body of a missing boy. Each of these boys carries the past with them, their storms in their lives: Gordie, the death of his brother; Chris, his reputation; Teddy, his abusive father, and Vern, his image as a fat kid. There were all wounded, cautious and insecure. In one scene, Chris tells Gordie not to give up being a writer, a gift that God gave him. Chris feels he has to say this --- in place of it being said by Gordie’s father because, “Kids lose everything unless someone is there to make sure they don’t.” In the end, Gordie, the writer says this, referring to Chris, “Although I hadn't seen him in more than 10 years, I know I'll miss him forever.” The presence of friends calms the most terrible of tempests. An excerpt of the original song by Jerry Lieber expresses this theme:

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountain
Should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry
No, I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand
Stand by me.

Whenever you're in trouble
Won't you stand by me, oh stand by me.

And this is precisely the meaning of the Gospel today. When the storms of life shake us, Jesus’ presence turns them to peace. Jesus stands by us: He makes sure that we don’t lose our lives.

Another song became a soundtrack in the video of the death of a friend who died protecting a student in Cambodia. Richie Fernando SJ was my batchmate in regency. The refrain of “Far Greater Love” says:

The storms of life may shake our ground; a greater peace still dwells in our hearts.
The dreams we build may fall apart; a deeper hope still runs in our hearts.
Fear no harm we are ruled by a far greater love.
We’re never alone, all else may go wrong.
Still will there be, a love far greater than our hearts.

The reason why Jesus stands by us, present in the same boat as us, is this: His love is far greater than ours.

*Will Wheaton (Gordie), River Phoenix (Chris), Corey Fieldman (Teddy), and Jerry O'Connell (Vern). from IMDb.

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