Half awake, the radio told me in a bare five second grab that in his final address Pope Benedict had said it had felt at times in his papacy that God was asleep. I thought of Mother Teresa and her overwhelming sense of God’s absence through much of her life. I tried to picture God asleep. It was a melancholy picture which rang true with how the world feels at times.
But when I went to read more of what he had said, I discovered the radio grab and the headlines are a reduction and distortion of the pope’s words. His comments were much more astute, a comparison to the time the apostles are in the boat with the Lord Jesus in stormy weather and the Lord sleeps on. The point was that God was present in the boat, even if he was asleep. The headlines miss the significance, the evocation of a profound story. It’s a far better picture, the Lord Jesus sleeping in the boat to our frustration and bewilderment as the storm rages, than a deistic picture of a God in the heavens asleep.