Saturday, June 20, 2015

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 4:35-41

Today’s Gospel from Mark brings to mind an event a number of years ago, when my family and I were on vacation in Ireland. My son bought the family tickets for a ferry ride to Clare Island, off the coast of County Mayo. Clare island is where Grace O`Malley, the tyrant of the ocean, resided and was buried in the 16th century. There is a lovely old abbey there, St, Bridget’s, that dates from the 13th century. That day was very windy, and I was hesitant, because - I do not like boats!  but I gave in. 

After boarding the ferry and taking our top deck seats, we began to move towards the island. Very soon this little ferry was in the midst of chaos – riding huge waves, one minute seeing the sky, next minute looking at water. The captain told us we would not sink, but best to go below and put on our life jackets. That was just great. On the bottom deck of the ferry were sitting two elderly nuns, who gave me a nice smile. They were calm; I was in a panic, thinking my life was all over…. “Oh you of little faith.”

Our story begins with Jesus, who is tired after a long day of preaching and teaching. He leaves with his disciples by boat – moving across the Sea of Galilee to the other side.

He sleeps soundly in the stern of the boat. As the boat moves out to sea, a violent storm comes up – the sea is rough - the winds are strong - the waves are high – they begin to break over the boat. I CAN imagine the terror the disciples were experiencing during the storm. Mark uses good symbolism here. The boat or bark - is an ancient Christian symbol of the Church, the vessel of salvation. You can find carvings of boats on the walls of the catacombs in Rome. Early Christians needed to disguise the cross. Since the ship's mast forms a cross in many of its depictions - it made for a good sign. The Boat holds the Disciples, and symbolically, all of Christ's Disciples, you and me. Jesus is also in the boat with us. Church Father St. Hippolytus wrote, "The World is a Sea - in which the Church, like a Ship, is beaten by the waves, but not submerged" in fact it has an expert pilot, Christ.” 

The boat, the Church, is being tossed around on the sea of disbelief, secularism, and persecution, martyrdom, institutional corruption, and scandal. Our American Church today is experiencing a perfect storm, a lack of priestly and religious vocations, attacks on the Sacrament of marriage, religious freedom, and attacks upon the dignity of the human person. Still, in the midst of the storm, the boat moves towards the other side, to that eternal safe harbor - with its cargo of human souls – a fulfillment of Christ’s promise.

The storm is raging. Jesus lies in the stern - asleep on a cushion. The storm seems to have no effect on him. More symbolism - the sleeping Christ stands for the power – and the presence of God within the Church. He is always the source of peace and serenity in the midst of the greatest storms. How many of us here today are in the midst of a perfect storm? I am sure many of us, myself included. Here we are together - in our Church – in our boat – and there is Jesus behind the altar in the tabernacle – resting in his humanity, the same as he was in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. He is our peace. He is what St. Teresa of Avila called our “Interior Castle.” Our place of safety.

The disciples are in a panic – anxiety is taking hold. They wake up Jesus and say to him “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing.”?  Jesus woke up, rebuked the wind and said “Quiet, be still.” Here we witness the great display of power. Once Christ is awakened, He has the power to calm the storm. If Jesus can calm the storms of the sea with one word, he certainly can calm the storms in our lives.

Jesus said to the disciples “Why are you terrified, do you not yet have faith.”?

The disciples' persistently failed to grasp our Lord's teaching. It must have been a great source of trial and frustration for Jesus. How many of the disciples were at the foot of the cross? As far as faith goes, the disciples are a lot like us.

Our faith is shaken because we lack Trust in God. Trusting God can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful. The events this week in a Charleston, South Carolina shake us to the bone. Nine Christians shot and killed ... violence for the sake of violence. Where is God? Is He sleeping?  We don’t always know the ways of the lord, his mind, why his providence unfolds the way it does in the midst of suffering, hardship and loss.  We just don’t know. So, just like a child who does not understand what his parents are all about – the child trusts them, we must learn to be like children in our Trust of The Lord. The prophet Isaiah says “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”  Isaiah 40:31

 Faith will lead to Trust. Have we fallen asleep in our faith? We must learn to wake up Jesus in ourselves. At baptism we became temples of the Holy Spirit. He resides in us – the problem is – we let him sleep. The storms in our lives bring on a fear that stops us in our tracks. Pope Francis says “A person who is afraid “does nothing, doesn’t know what to do.” He is focused on himself, overly concerned that nothing bad will happen.” Fear brings you to a self-centered selfishness and paralyzes you.” “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus.”

We must move from fear to faith, then to Trust. A strong faith allows us to trust in God and His providence. Renew our  life of prayer, read the scripture, the sacraments, a readiness to serve others out of love.

Our gospel story corresponds well with our first reading. Job was enduring a ferocious storm - he lost everything – children, home, health– When Job's life fell apart, he still found reasons to praise God, reasons that we also should embrace.

    That God is good and loving. (Job 10:12)
    That God is all-powerful. (Job 42:2; 37:5, 23)
    That God notices every detail of our life. (Job 23:10; 31:4)
    That God is in control. (Job 34:13)
    That God has a plan for every life (Job 23:14)
    That God will save us (Job 19:25)

Job held on to God's Word. He said, "I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread." (Job 23:12, NIV).
Job's trusting in the Lord was his vindication.

We are all going to endure storms in this life. Let us always know that God dwells within us in the person of Christ. He lives in us. 


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