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.