2 Ordinary Time
WHY ARE WE SO FRIGHTENED?
«Why are you so frightened? Have you still no faith?» For Mark the Gospel-writer, these two
questions that Jesus directs to his disciples aren’t just an anecdote from the past. They are questions
that Jesus’ followers need to hear in the midst of our crises. The questions that we also need to ask
ourselves today: What is the root of our cowardice? Why are we afraid of the future? Is it because
we lack faith in Jesus Christ?
The story is a short one. It all starts with Jesus’ command: «Let us cross over to the other side». The
disciples know that the other side of the Sea of Tiberias is the pagan territory of the Decapolis. A
different and strange country. A culture that is hostile to their religion and their beliefs.
All of a sudden there arose a powerful storm, graphic metaphor of what is happening in the group of
disciples. The hurricane-strength wind, the waves breaking against the boat, the water that starts
filling it up, all express their situation: What can Jesus’ followers do in the face of the pagan
world’s hostility? It’s not just their mission that is in jeopardy, but the very existence of their group.
Awakened by his disciples, Jesus intervenes, the wind lets up, and over the lake there comes a great
calm. What’s surprising is that the disciples «are overcome with awe». Before they were afraid of
the storm. Now it seems they are afraid of Jesus. Nevertheless something decisive has happened in
them: they rushed to Jesus, they could experience in him a saving power that they hadn’t known,
they begin to ask themselves about his identity. They are beginning to understand that with him
everything is possible.
Christianity today finds itself in the midst of a «powerful storm» and fear begins to overcome us.
We don’t dare pass over to «the other shore». Modern culture becomes a strange and hostile
country for us. The future causes us to be afraid. Creativity seems to be prohibited. Some think it’s
safer to look backwards in order to go forward.
Jesus can surprise us all. The Resurrected One has power to inaugurate a new phase in the history of
Christianity. All he asks of us is faith. A faith that frees us from so much fear and cowardice, a faith
that commits us to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
José Antonio Pagola
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 4:35-41
A kindergarten teacher, says Margaret Avery, was telling this Gospel of calming the seas to British
students. Outside the school, a blizzard was blowing. While she was struggling to get the children
through the snowdrifts to the school buses at 3PM, she heard one 5 year old say to his chum: "We
could be doing with that chap Jesus right now." Jesus and the twelve had spent the daytime hours
preaching. They were exhausted. They wanted quiet hours for a fishfry, wine, conversation, and
sleep. But huge crowds pursued Jesus. Then as now He had huge box office draw.
He said to them: "Let's break camp and go to the other side." But, because it looked like a storm, the
apostles did not want to ship out. Remember some of them were experienced sailors. Only
reluctantly did they sail with Him. Peter's boat would seat a party of thirteen comfortably, All got in
and Jesus began sail with a boatload of very unhappy campers. Soon the exhausted Jesus was in the
stern asleep. Initially it was a peaceful sail. The apostles were dozing. The only one working was
the muttering Peter at the helm. Then the mother of all storms arose. The weather people among the
apostles had been correct. When cold winds come out of the mountains in the north, they whip up
the lake with waves six feet high. If you were in a small boat in such a storm, you could forget
about sending out a distress signal. Just get on your knees and sing, ~I'm Coming Home, Lord."
Humungus waves were washing over the boat. Everyone was drenched. Peter shouted, "Get that sail
down" - though he used much more colorful language. The vessel was in danger of capsizing. They
broke out the oars and aimed for the nearest shore. Those not rowing were bailing furiously.
Unaccountably, Jesus continued to sleep despite the apostles now singing "Nearer My God to
Thee." More unaccountably the apostles allowed Jesus to sleep. Finally, when their nerves broke,
they angrily shook Him.
The still sleepy Christ stood. Wind was whipping through His hair. His beard and clothing were
sticking to His lean body. One can understand why the nineteenth century Delacroix painted
fourteen different versions of this miracle. Notice Jesus addresses the awesome sea as a person.
"Quiet. Be still." This ties in with the Jewish belief that the devil lived in the water. It was the devil
who was churning up the lake. And so Jesus spoke to him directly. There is a calm. The apostles are
stunned. Their Leader switched off the storm without any effort. The Jews believed that only God
had power over storms and sea. Then He spoke to them with a rage, "Why were you so terrified?
Where was your faith?" He had done such a good job of calming the wind the sail was useless.
They had to use oars to get to the shore and some dry clothes. The tired Jesus went back to sleep on
His wet pillow. Mark wrote his Gospel toward the end of first century. The Church was already in
big trouble. Emperors were persecuting the Church. The favorite outdoor sport of Romans was
feeding Christians to lions. The apostles were either on the run or martyred. Jesus was off stage.
Christians were cowering in the catacombs. There were heresies. Informers and scandals were
everyplace. People lined up to abandon ship. Mark is saying to early Christians, "We've been down
this road before. If you think you got it bad, you should have been in the boat that night. Jesus in
His own time will rise from sleep and say to our enemies: 'Quiet. Be still.'
And the Church will move into the second century with all flags flying." Throw all this 1900 years
into the early 21st century. Numbers of priests decline. Few young women join the convent.
Catholics squabble among themselves. Many young are turned off. Ugly sexual scandals are about
us. People jump over the side. Like the 5 year old who began this homily, we are saying, "We could
use that chap Jesus right now." Mark is telling us through this story Christ will once again play
Superman when He is ready. He will then ask us sharply, "Why are you so fearful? Where is your
faith?"
And the Church will flourish in the 21st century. The aphorism teaches that when you have nothing
left but God, you will find God quite enough. The German poet Rilke said God's grace quietly
refuses to destroy us. Our prayer then should be that of the seamen of Brittany, "Lord, the sea is so
large and our boat is so small. Come quickly."
Twelfth Sunday: Peace in the Turmoil
As I was thinking about the readings for this week and the fact that this Sunday is Father's Day,
(Let's hear it for equal time for the dads!), I reflected on a series of complaints that I often hear from
some of our fathers. They go something like this: "You know, I would just like to have a few days
without turmoil. Somebody in the family is usually in trouble, most often me. This Teen missed her
curfew, that child lied to us, my wife is upset over something someone said to her, and somehow,
beyond my knowledge, I get blamed for part if not all of it.
There's sickness, someone is always not feeling well and that is scary particularly when it is the
children. There's the bills. I'm not even going to go there. And then there are the relatives. I can't
figure out whose family is crazier, mine or hers, but they are running a tight race. Then there is
work which so help me I wouldn't do if they didn't pay me. I turn on the news. What a break that is.
I'm not sure if we are going into global warming or global freezing, but somehow it's going to be
bad. Between the politicians, the economy, and world events, every day it looks like everything is
even worse than the day before. The world is in turmoil.” I am sure that everyone here, not just the
dads, have had similar feelings. It's probably why we all wish we were back in kindergarten when
the only real concern we had in life had to do with getting to the bathroom in time. Look at the
kindergartners. They laugh most of the day, except when they are crying, and then a quick kiss on
the boo-boo from Mom and all is right with the world again. But we are not in kindergarten any
more. We are in the real world. And the real world has turmoil. The readings for this Sunday speak
about turmoil. The first is from the Book of Job. This is the conclusion to the main section of Job.
In the main section of Job, from the middle of chapter 2 to the beginning of chapter 42, Job
questions God. Job had lost his livelihood. He had lost his children. He was in terrible physical
pain. Chapter 3 begins, "Job opened his mouth and cursed his day.
Three friends show up to commiserate with him, but make matters worse by saying that he must
have done something horrible to deserve all this. They are like the holier than though friend who
tells people that they are responsible for their misery. A fourth, younger man comes, but he just
adds coal to the fire by suggesting that Job was not the good man everyone thought he was. Job
responds, "I loath my life.” At the conclusion of this book of wisdom, God speaks. Part of that is in
today's first reading. God says, "I am present healing the turmoil. Do not question me. Have faith in
me. Look, I took control of the seas, the ancient symbol of chaos.” God is telling Job that He is
mightier than any turmoil. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the people of Corinth, and us,
that Christ died so that we might be raised up with Him. He turned defeat into victory. He is
infinitely more powerful than the most powerful force in the world, death. God's power over turmoil
is particularly seen in the Gospel reading. A storm suddenly comes upon the disciples as they are
crossing the Sea of Galilee. The boat is rocking. The ship is probably going to sink. But Jesus is on
board, asleep. In a panic, they wake Him. He quells the storm, and then asks them if they really
have faith in Him and in His Father. And that is the message we all have to remember. Turmoil is
normal because we live in an imperfect world, a world that rejected the Perfect One. Turmoil is
normal, but God is greater than the turmoil. He sees. He knows. He controls. Only He does that His
way, not our way. So the trials of the family actually help the dad and the mom, as well as the
children, become more giving, more Christlike. The effort to solve this or that problem are more
important than its solution.
And in the long run, and through faith, God's hand is seen in the turmoil. We pray to God, and He
does answer our prayers. Sometime, though, he says, "No, I have a better idea that ultimately is
going to serve the growth of the Kingdom.” So, the people prayed that somehow Bishop Ignatius of
Antioch would be spared from the beasts in the Colosseum, but God had another idea that resulted
in the witness of Ignatius's life still bringing growth to the Church even in a place as far away from
Antioch and Rome as Tarpon Springs, FLorida. So, the family prayed that their child might survive
this horrible disease, but God knew that although the child's life would be brief it would be
infinitely valuable. So, the Teen prayed to get into that college, but God knew that the real
opportunity for spiritual growth would be in another college, or, perhaps, no college at all. And the
young man prayed that God would let that girl love him. And, as the old country song goes, ten
years later he thanked God for unanswered prayers. Look, it is hard to have faith when we are in
turmoil. Everything appears black when there do not appear to be any solutions or end of problems.
But we need to be people of faith. We need to trust in God in the darkness as well as in the light.
Natalie Grant's song Held speaks to all our hearts: Two months is too little. They let him go. They
had no sudden healing.
To think that providence would take a child from his mother while she prays is appalling. Who told
us we'd be rescued? What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares? We're
asking, why has this happened to us who have died to live. This is what it means to be held. How it
feels when the sacred is torn from your life....and you survive. This is what it means to be loved,
and to know that gthe promise was when everything fell...we'd be held. The hand is bitterness. We
want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrows. The wise hands open slowly to lilies of the valley
and tomorrow. If hope is born of suffering, if this is only the beginning, can we not wait for one
hour watching for our Savior? This is what it means to be held. © CCLI License # 2368115 We
pray today that when turmoil hits, we might remain people of faith.
12 Ordinary Time
Message: One died for all. Therefore, the love of Christ impels. This is the third homily in a 4 part
series titled, "Through Him." We come to the Father through Him - through Jesus. The first homily
focused on Jesus' presence in the Eucharist - the bread and wine that become Jesus' body and blood
. In the second homily we learned that Jesus is the kingdom - in his person. That's why St. Paul says
longs to be with the Lord. Today St. Paul reveals that that longing is the driving force of his life.
"The love of Christ impels us," he says. You and I are not St. Paul, but on some level we feel that
driving force.
As I mentioned in previous homilies, the Disciple Maker survey indicate that 40% have
encountered Jesus Christ and are growing as disciples and that for 41% the relationship with Jesus
is the most important relationship in your life. Four out of every five parishioners speak about the
powerful force of Jesus in their lives. Still, some are hesitant. I would to say a word to the reluctant.
You might feel like the disciples in today's Gospel - the middle of storm, in danger of capsizing or
drown. You might even be asking, "Does God, does Jesus, even care?" I ask you to do this. As
much as you can, try to find a moment of quiet. Turn off the electronic devices. Compose yourself.
You might have a Bible next to you.
Ask the big question, the one we hear today. Who is this? Perhaps be a more specific: What if Jesus
is not just an historical figure, but everything - the kingdom in his person? And: What if that host that piece of unleavened bread - is really the body and blood of Jesus? It may take a little courage,
but consider addressing him directly: Who are you? Please, show yourself to me. Realize that you
are not alone. Others have come to the conviction, as St. Paul says, that "one died for all." That
Jesus died not just for humanity, but for you personally. That is why the love of Christ impels. This
does not mean we are perfect. I don't know about you, but every day I struggle with spiritual
laziness, anger, greed, lust, envy, gluttony - and arrogance. Sometimes I give in, but I want you to
know those urges - and even those sins - they do not define me.
And they do not define you. Brothers and sisters, one died for all. Therefore, the love of Christ
impels. I think of a great lawyer who became a saint. Don't look at me that way. There are some
lawyers in heaven. (smile) Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Thomas More. King Henry VIII put him to
death for not affirming his divorce and remarriage. When he was in prison awaiting his death - a
death that possibly included mutilation and other tortures - he wrote to his daughter Margaret.
"Meg," he writes, "Nothing can come but what God allows. And I am sure that whatever it may be,
however bad it might seem, it shall indeed be for the best." Perhaps St. Thomas heard a voice, like
in today's Gospel: "Why are you terrified? Why do you not have faith?"
You and I can also hear that voice and experience some of the awe the disciples felt. And say, "Yes,
the love of Christ impels us."
Amen.
Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Classic Sunday, June 21, 2015 Mark 4: 35–41
Gospel Summary
In Mark's gospel, Jesus is presented as one who loves to tell stories, such as the one we find in
today's gospel. There are few more frightening experiences than to be in a small boat on a large
body of water when a sudden squall comes up. The disciples are experienced fishermen, but they
know how helpless they are in a turbulent sea. The disciples do not understand how Jesus can be so
calm at a time of mortal danger. We know, however, that in his baptism he has been empowered to
deal with all kinds of chaotic situations. He has been sent by his heavenly Father to restore creation
and to drive back the powers of darkness and chaos that have entered our lives through sin.
He touches sick people and their health is restored; he confronts demons and they are banished; he
brings peace and harmony where there had been fear and hopelessness. Jesus has this power for
good because he is in touch with the Creator who has sent him to bring to us that love which
enables God to view all of creation and to declare it to be "very good” (Genesis 1: 31). Life
Implications In our personal lives, we experience wonderful moments of peace and joy and
harmony; but we also have to deal frequently with the challenge of our own kinds of chaos, such as
physical ailments, mental anxiety, and all the many causes of fear and uncertainty. It is amazing
how easily a "calm sea” can change into a "raging storm” of doubt, fear, and virtual helplessness.
We need to know how we, like the disciples, can call upon Jesus and suddenly find that our stormy
sea becomes calm and serene.
Jesus tells us that it is a matter of faith: "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” We
may be tempted to respond that we do indeed have faith for we can say "Amen” to all the
statements of the Creed. That is an important kind of faith, but it is not as real and personal as the
faith that God wants us to have. The faith that calms storms in our lives is a conviction that the
Risen Lord is present in our world more truly than he ever was to the disciples in Israel. This kind
of faith is a special gift of God for which we must pray not only when we are in trouble but
especially when things are going well.
When his heavenly Father said to Jesus in his baptism: "You are my beloved Son,” he was
endowing him with the power of divine love that he would then offer to all of us. In effect, this is
the kind of loving presence that speaks to us every moment of our lives and which can be expressed
in those reassuring words that we need so much to hear: "I am with you always” (Matthew 28: 20),
which means that love and trust will win out in the end.
TWELFTH Sunday in Ordinary Time Job 38, 1.8-11; Psalm 107; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17;
Mark 4:35-41
"Teacher, do you not care if we perish?" "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" (Mark 4: 38. 40)
Storms or no storms, in tempest and in peace, we must live by faith. The greatest test of faith is the
confidence of belief in God through the fear brought by the terrors of darkness and the tempests of
temptation. Faith is given by God precisely to sustain our weakness by divine power through the
difficulties life will bring. "Now, however, 'we walk by faith, not by sight'; (2 Corinthians 5:7) we
perceive God as 'in a mirror, dimly' and only 'in part.' (1 Corinthians 13:12)
Even though enlightened by him in whom it believes, faith is often lived in darkness and can be put
to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our
experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can
shake our faith and become a temptation against it." (CCC 164) "Perfect faith casts out all fear."
The saints and martyrs, the witnesses, including the Apostles who feared the storm and the seas, are
the ones to whom we look to learn how to be men and women of faith, even while enduring the
temptations and doubts that flesh is heir to. "It is then that we must turn to the witnesses of faith: to
Abraham, who 'in hope...believed against hope'; (Romans 4:18) to the Virgin Mary, who, in 'her
pilgrimage of faith,' walked into the 'night of faith' (Lumen Gentium 58; John Paul II, Redemptoris
Mater 18) in sharing the darkness of her son's suffering and death; and to so many others:
'Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every
weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before
us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.' (Hebrews 12:1-2)" (CCC 165)
Faith is the gift of God, and through this virtue he enables us to call upon him in every
circumstance, from desperation to joy, in tragedies and in blessings. Christ commanded us to "pray
always." Prayer is the necessary means of union with God in every circumstance: "It is always
possible to pray: The time of the Christian is that of the risen Christ who is with us always, no
matter what tempests may arise. (Cf. Matthew 28:20; Luke 8:24)
Our time is in the hands of God: 'It is possible to offer fervent prayer even while walking in public
or strolling alone, or seated in your shop,...while buying or selling,...or even while cooking.' (St.
John Chrysostom, Ecloga de oratione 2: PG 63, 585)" (CCC 2743) "Prayer is a vital necessity.
Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back
into the slavery of sin. (Cf. Galatians 5:16-25)
How can the Holy Spirit be our life if our heart is far from him? 'Nothing is equal to prayer; for
what is impossible it makes possible, what is difficult, easy...For it is impossible, utterly impossible,
for the man who prays eagerly and invokes God ceaselessly ever to sin.' (St. John Chrysostom, De
Anna 4, 5: PG 54, 666) 'Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly
damned.' (St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Del gran mezzo della preghiera.) Prayer and Christian life are
inseparable, for they concern the same love and the same renunciation, proceeding from love; the
same filial and loving conformity with the Father's plan of love; the same transforming union in the
Holy Spirit who conforms us more and more to Christ Jesus; the same love for all men, the love
with which Jesus has loved us. 'Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he [will] give it to you.
This I command you, to love one another.' (Origen, De orat. 12:PG 11, 452C)" (CCC 2744) The
greatest prayer, the sacramental liturgy of the Church, is the place where prayer and love meet
perfectly. "In the sacramental liturgy of the Church, the mission of Christ and of the Holy Spirit
proclaims, makes present, and communicates the mystery of salvation, which is continued in the
heart that prays. The spiritual writers sometimes compare the heart to an altar.
Prayer internalizes and assimilates the liturgy during and after its celebration. Even when it is lived
out 'in secret,' (Cf. Matthew 6:6) prayer is always prayer of the Church; it is a communion with the
Holy Trinity. (GILH 9)" (CCC 2655) The best antidote to fear is the heart at prayer, confident of the
mercy of God and the availability of salvation in the sacramental life. I look forward to meeting you
here again next week as, together, we "meet Christ in the liturgy".
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
I do like the story in today's Gospel about Jesus calming the storm. It is easy for us to imagine the
rising panic of the disciples and contrast it with Jesus who is completely at peace with himself as he
sleeps in the stern of the boat with his head on a cushion. The Lake of Galilee is relatively shallow
and so when the wind whips up the sea can get a bit wild.
A storm can blow up very quickly and this can be quite devastating for boats that cannot find shelter
speedily enough. In such a situation panic would be the default emotion. Jesus, however, is not
perturbed at all; he sleeps on in the stern of the boat and only wakes when the disciples call him.
When he does awake all is done quietly and patiently; he simply rebukes the storm and restores the
calm. He then asks them why they are frightened and seems to link this with their lack of faith.
Jesus is, of course, the author of creation. As the Son of the Father he was in existence before any of
creation was brought into being. He has no fear of weather or of anything else; it does not control
him, no, he controls it. I don't doubt that this incident actually took place; it doesn't strike me as the
sort of thing that the disciples would have invented because it puts them in a bad light, especially
the remark by Jesus that they have no faith. No it is a story with the ring of truth about it, especially
the little detail about him lying with his head on a cushion. But to me this story has a deeper sense
because I think that it has a meaning beyond that particular journey across the Sea of Galilee. I
think that we can see this story as an analogy for the storms of life that all of us have to face.
Many of us experience a severe buffeting as we make our journey through life. From time to time in
life we suffer illness, loss, pain, separation, straightened circumstances, hardship and so on. I hazard
to say that most of us experience several of these things at various points in our life; however there
are some people though who, through no fault of their own, experience a whole succession of
misfortunes. We all know of people who have suffered a series of close bereavements, or multiple
illnesses, or long-lasting financial problems or extreme difficulties with their relationships. We
observe how such people seem to constantly be passing from one crisis to the next. Or it could be
ourselves who are so unfortunate. These are the storms of life and while we all experience them to
some extent certain people surely endure far more than others. In the storm on the Sea of Galilee the
disciples panic, they eventually wake Jesus and they ask him a most telling question, "Do you not
care?”
They were afraid that the boat would sink. In the face of the storms of life we too frequently panic
and often enough the very same question is on our lips. We too ask God in prayer, "Do you not
care?” Sometimes when we most need God we feel that he is not there or that he doesn't care. In
addition to the troubles of life we sometimes also feel that God has cast us aside. We come to the
conclusion that he has neglected us and that he doesn't care.
We feel bereft. A woman in a previous parish who had suffered a lot of personal illness and tragedy
culminating in the death of both her husband and her son within a few months was talking to me
about what she had endured. At one point she shook her fist at heaven and said with strong feeling,
"There is nothing more he can throw at me now!” There is always the problem of whether our
perception and the actual reality correspond or not. In times of extreme difficulty we may feel that
God has deserted us but we need to know whether he actually has or not. We are often so
overwhelmed by our feelings and they so hem us in that we cannot easily distinguish the facts of the
situation. Sometimes distance is necessary before we can uncover the true reality of the situation.
Oftentimes it feels as though God is far away, as if he has pressing concerns on the other side of the
world.
Or, as in the Gospel story today, we think he might be asleep in the stern of the boat with his head
on a cushion, completely oblivious to the storm which assails us. In the cold light of day we know
that to use terms such as near or far away to describe God's presence is absolutely useless. God is
never near or far away; God is always completely present to us. I don't want to say that God is static
but these terms which speak of God's distance from us do not serve us well. God is always close,
always understanding, always healing, always loving, always protecting. What is near or far is our
perception of him, our feelings of his closeness or distance. One of the problems that arises when
we are experiencing the storms of life is that we think in terms of bad things happening to us. We
see loss, illness, pain and so on as negative things. We perceive suffering as something wholly bad.
But when we open the eyes of faith we are able to understand that our sufferings are not actually
negative; we come to realise that our sufferings are filled with meaning. In short, they are
redemptive. Faith tells us that the seemingly negative things that happen are all part of God's
purposes. These things strengthen us, they test our love, they give us resolve, they make our faith
stronger, and they prepare us for heaven. Of course, all this only becomes apparent in perspective. It
takes time to work through our sufferings in order to see them in their true light. We will eventually
see the hand of God in the so-called misfortunes of life. We will eventually come to realise that God
is mysteriously showing his love for us through what we at first thought were things which were
wholly negative. We may suffer but we will be vindicated. The Lord will awaken and calm the
storms of life enabling us to safely enter our final harbour which is eternal life. It is only then that
we will gain true perspective and see our misfortunes for what they really are –signs of God's great
love for us.
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TWELFTH Sunday in Ordinary Time