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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B - Jun 21, 2015

Gospel MK 4:35-41

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B - Jun 21, 2015
(MK 4:35-41)



(Job: 38:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 107; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41)

Today’s gospel stirs memories. A Dominican sister and I were part of a team of preachers in the diocese of West Virginia. One morning we were with a Scripture sharing group in a small house, on a hillside, in a coal mining town south of the capital Charleston. After a prayerful beginning one of the local people read the passage and we all reflected on it in silence. After the silence I asked, what seemed like a silly question deep in Appalachia, "Have you ever experienced a storm at sea? There were no storms, as far as I knew, on the nearby Kanawha River.

A senior woman responded, "Yea! 30 years ago the coal mine up the hallow collapsed and 18 of our men died. We all had someone in that coal mine, or knew a relative of someone who died. They were tough times." Then she added, "That was our storm at sea!"

I guess someone reading these reflections might be able to read the gospel of Mark in its original Greek language. But educated or not, male or female, coal miner or professor, long-time citizen or recent immigrant, we are all joined by our common experience. We can say, with that woman, we know what a storm at sea is; like those coal miner families who suffered those tragic deaths. We have lived through the breakup of a long relationship; a dream we had to cancel; the loss of a job and family security; a marriage in crisis; feeling spiritually adrift in need of direction and anchoring. We know what those disciples in the story knew about "waves breaking over the boat." We know the first part of this gospel story firsthand.

We probably also have experience of the next part as well; the part about helplessness, terror and calling out for help. We have known the feelings of abrupt and unwanted changes in the routine of our lives. Maybe we have also lived through the part about Jesus sleeping. About how he feels absent just when we need him the most; how he doesn’t seem to show up and do something right away; how we have struggled on our own to keep from going under – until finally panic moves in and makes itself at home in us. We cry out from the storm, as those disciples did, "Don’t you care that we are perishing?" We know this part of the story as well.

Then comes the grace of the story: even though we have turned to him only because we are in deep, up to our necks. Helplessness has us on our knees, yet he is there with us asking the same question he asked those in the boat, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" It’s less a rebuke and more a reminder that our slight faith hasn’t turned him away and he does do something for us. Granted, he doesn’t always act as miraculously as he did for those terrified disciples, by turning the stormy seas into a calm glass-like lake. And, at times, it does seem he is asleep and we are on our own. Still, we find ourselves able to battle through the chaos of the days, one day at a time.

When we look back on that dangerous, faith-challenging time we say, as so many others have said, "I know that he was with me, how else could I have gotten through that storm?" That’s the other part of the story. Even when the seas are not calmed and, for some reason, change or improvement doesn’t come quickly, still we are strengthened and our faith is built up in the struggle. Certainly not by our own efforts or grit, but because of the One who seemed asleep, but was right there by our side in the storm – whether we felt him there or not.

I have heard stories like this more than once. A woman I know went through a serious bout with cancer. She said something that sounds incomprehensible and I want to honor her struggle and not make it sound trite, or an easy victory. "The disease was a blessing for me. It threw my life into chaos, robbed me of sleep, exhausted me and took a terrible toll on my physical and emotional life. It put a strain on my family as well. It undermined my security and the patterns of my daily life. But, it was a blessing, because it helped me put things in perspective. Things that used to preoccupy me: how clean my house was, the frictions at work, my husband’s idiosyncrasies, my children’s squabbling – weren’t as important. I woke each day and began to see the miracle of my life. Now I worry less about the future and live more in the present. I didn’t know if I would have a future. I did know I had the present. I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers as I had most of my life."

Then she added, "Each day I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ I trusted that what I needed for this day would be given me in any new storm I had to face. And it was give me."

I would say that was the faith Jesus was looking for in his disciples. I believe that even though the storm didn’t go away, they would have made it through the storm with him, their "daily bread," in the boat. That’s the faith he is building up for us today, at this Eucharist, especially if we are on rough and uncharted seas right now. He gives us himself this day, daily bread for the journey.

We can see why our first reading was chosen today. God speaks to Job "out of the storm." It is a theophany, a manifestation of God’s power and presence. (It suggests what is happening in the gospel as well.) At this point in the story of Job, each of his "comforters" has spoken and Job has answered them. But the problem raised by Job’s afflictions remains: why do humans suffer? It is now God’s turn to speak, "out of the storm." God’s answer simply states God’s transcendence over humans and power over nature. God is sovereign over everything. In today’s passage that rule is over the sea and prepares us to hear the gospel when Jesus will manifest his authority over the storm.

After hearing the gospel the question raised by the awe-filled disciples is ours as well, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP