12th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year Bb 2021
As well the Day of Life the scriptures today have a lot to teach us and help us in the storms of life, whether illness, work problems, domestic violence etc.
“Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?”
It’s an oddity of human existence today that people often travel the world, but never get around to exploring their own country. Whether because of tourism or emigration, we might visit and get to know places that are far away from our home, but never really explore our own vicinity. Sometimes people don’t even know much of their own city, let alone their own country. Although some of the apostles whom Christ first called would later travel the known world spreading the Gospel, they might well have been less familiar with places much closer to home. The fishermen, for example, even though they were experienced sailors, would fish so far out into the Sea of Galilee and no further. This would be one reason for their fear when the storm blew up. The other side of the sea was pagan territory – if we read on into the next chapter of Mark’s Gospel, this is something we will learn from the presence of pig farmers, since, for the Jewish people, the pig was an unclean animal, to be avoided at all cost.
So in today’s Gospel reading the disciples are travelling to pagan territories. This may have been a puzzle to them, as at this point they had no reason to regard Jesus as anything other than a Jew sent to the Jewish people, God’s chosen people.
In times of danger, calmness in another person doesn’t always inspire calm in others. In the story Jesus is not just calm; Mark tells us that he is actually sleeping in the boat and even gives the detail that he has “his head on the cushion”. The disciples are afraid of the storm, but really their fear is more extensive than that. They are being taken out of the life they know and into a new life, which they cannot yet understand. So when the Lord rebukes them for not having faith, he is not just talking about their fear of drowning. They are afraid of where this Messiah might take them and what he will ask of them.
Throughout his earthly ministry, the true greatness of Christ and his mission eludes the disciples. On this occasion we are told that there are other boats on the sea, with him or with the boat – the Greek admits either translation. When Christ shows his power, he does it in a way that saves all the boats. What he does not do is save just the boat that the disciples are in. This great calm which he brings about is for the sake of all who must take ship and risk their lives on the great sea of life, that is to say, all humanity.
This great calm will not come upon the world until human history is done. When this will be is not given to us to know. What we can trust is that the ship of the Church will make its way through storms until that end comes. The journey may be hard, and much may be lost on the way, but the ship will not be lost.
The risen Christ is not asleep. He watches over his Church day and night. Yet it may seem to us, at times, that he does sleep. The servants of Christ are not protected from danger. They may drown, they may be persecuted, they may die in all sorts of accidents. What they are protected from is a meaningless death. This does not mean we may see the sense in a particular death. The letter to the Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
We may never see the full meaning of what we endure in this life, but the vision of God will reassure us that nothing happens outside of God’s will and all is for the purpose of preparing us for eternal love. We are called to pray, to admit our fears and to take what reasonable steps we may to avoid harm. What we should never do is to think for a moment that the Lord does not care. There will be a moment when danger will end and we will enter into the deep eternal calm of life with him in heaven. Meanwhile, we have a journey to make, following him in this world.
Where is God During the Storm?
Their boat was being violently tossed, and the disciples were terrified. They’d had fine weather when they set out for the other side of the lake, but the wind blew in unexpectedly and one of the squalls that the lake was famous for rushed down with vengeance. Waves rose higher than the boat as they bailed out the water that rolled over the boat’s sides, shouting to be heard over the roar of the wind.
“Jesus,” they called out as they fought to keep the boat afloat. “Help us, please!” But there was no answer, and they kept up their frantic activity alone. “Jesus, where are you?”
Finally, they discovered Jesus—sleeping.
In frustration, someone shook him awake and cried out, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Jesus stood, and with a few words he simply commanded the waves to be still.
Can you imagine the silence, after all that blowing, shaking, and yelling? Suddenly, the sea was calm—the sky above reflecting on its still surface. They could hear their hearts pounding in their chests, so sudden and complete was the change in weather.
Jesus looked from one pale, trembling face to the next and shook his head. “Why are you so afraid,” he asked them. “Do you still have no faith?”
Have you ever found yourself crying out to God during one of life’s hard storms? Maybe it snuck up on you, or maybe it had been brewing for quite some time. A failing marriage, a health crisis, a job loss, a betrayal…the storms of life can seem overwhelming, and it can feel like you are drowning.
Fear can take over when we’re hit with a squall, and we’re left feeling like we’re trying to bail the water out of our little boat with a teacup, exhausted, fighting for our lives and barely able to speak. “Jesus, where are you?” we gasp in prayer. “Don’t you care if I drown?”
At the point that they found themselves at the mercy of the waves in a boat that must have suddenly felt like a bobbing death trap rather than a vessel of safety, the disciples had already seen Jesus do plenty of miracles. He’d turned water into wine, and they had witnessed him heal many sick people. In fact, he’d recently healed a lame man on the Sabbath, inciting the wrath of the Pharisees. And that day, he’s called himself “The Son of Man,”—a direct reference to his identity as Messiah and Saviour.
In fact, they’d also seen Jesus at work in the crowds before this fateful boat trip, and when impure spirits encountered him they “fell before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’” (Mark 3:11). They’d had plenty of chances to see that Jesus was capable of miracles, that he cared deeply for the people, and that he was no ordinary man. Still, despite the repeated miracles they’d witnessed—they were afraid that Jesus would let them down.
The disciples were afraid that Jesus had abandoned them, not only fearing that he had fallen asleep and wasn’t paying attention, but that he didn’t care what happened to them!
Of course, Jesus cared. And he had the situation under control—he knew that with a few words, he could turn the crisis around and put them back on calm waters. He also knew that what happened that day in the boat was a powerful lesson that would speak to believers through the ages to come, a lesson that we all need to lean on at times.
Trusting in Jesus to Calm Life’s Storms
If the Lord’s close friends, who had been there at his side all along, were lacking in faith…is it any wonder that we often find ourselves in the same “boat”? You ask where is God in the Storm? Jesus says I'm right by your side.