20Jun June 20, 2021. Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Job 38:1, 8-11

Job’s pride is curbed by awe

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said:

“Who shut within doors the sea,
when it burst forth from the womb;
when I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling bands?
When I set limits for it
and fastened the bar of its door,
and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stilled!”

Responsorial: from Psalm 139

R./: I praise you, for I am wonderfully made

O Lord, you search me and you know me,
you know my resting and my rising,
you discern my purpose from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down,
all my ways lie open to you. (R./)

For it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you for the wonder of my being,
for the wonders of all your creation. (R./)

Already you knew my soul,
my body held no secret from you,
when I was being fashioned in secret
and moulded in the depths of the earth. (R./)

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Paul’s spiritual outlook: A life prompted and sustained by the love of God

The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

Gospel: Mark 4:35-41

Calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Drawing a lesson from the storm

St John Chrysostom’s Homilies on Matthew were preached in Antioch and show his keen engagement with details of the text. His main objective was promoting morality, so that in dealing with any passage he concludes with an exhortation to some special virtue. Here is part of what he says about today’s Gospel. The citation is long, but it is full of keen insights: “Behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, so that the ship was covered with the waves, but he was asleep.” Jesus took them with him, not by chance but in order to make them spectators of the miracle that was to take place. For like an excellent trainer, he was anointing them with a view to both objects; as well to be undismayed in dangers, a to be modest in honours. Having sent away the rest, he kept them and lets them be tossed with the tempest; at once correcting this, and disciplining them to bear trials nobly. For while the former miracles were great indeed, this one contained also in it a major kind of teaching, and was a sign like that of old. For this reason he takes with him only the disciples. For as when there was a display of miracles, he also lets the people be present; so when trial and terrors were rising up against him, he takes with him none but the champions of the whole world, whom he was to train. While Matthew merely mentioned that “he was asleep,” Luke says that it was “on a pillow;” meaning both his freedom from pride, and to teach us hereby a high degree of austerity.”

He goes on to moralise about the disciples’ fear: “When the tempest was at its height and the sea raging, they awoke him, saying, “Lord, save us: we perish.” But he rebuked them before he rebuked the sea, because as I said, these things were permitted for training purposes and they were an image of the trials that would come to them later. Yes, for after these things again, he often let them fall into serious tempests of misfortune; and Paul also said, “I would not have you ignorant that we were pressed beyond our strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life;” and again, “Who delivered us from so great a death.” Indeed their very alarm was a valuable occurrence, that the miracle seemed all the greater and their remembrance of the event be made lasting. Having first expected to be lost, they were saved, and having acknowledged the danger, they learned the greatness of the miracle. So that is why he sleeps: for had he been awake when it happened, they would not have been fearful, or they would not have begged him. Therefore he sleeps, to give occasion for their timidity and make clearer their perception of what was happening.”

Chrysostom concludes, “He stretched out no rod, as Moses did, neither did he stretch forth his hands to Heaven, nor did he need any prayer, but as for a master commanding his handmaid, or a Creator his creature, so did he quiet and curb it by word and command only; and all the surge was immediately at an end, and no trace of the disturbance remained. This the evangelist declared saying, “And there was a great calm.” And that which had been spoken in praise of the Father, he showed forth again by his works. For it says, “he spoke and the stormy wind ceased.” So here likewise, he spoke, and “there was a great calm.” And the multitudes who wondered at him; would not have marvelled, had he done it in such manner as did Moses.”

Overwhelming force

In good weather it is lovely to live near the sea, especially when we have such a lovely promenade. Last month I was involved in a blessing of boats ceremony organized by our boat and yacht club. It was my first time in the premises of that club and it brought home to me how many people, including young people, from the area are involved in sailing and boating. We are fortunate to have a relatively sheltered stretch of water between the promenade and the open sea where people can sail reasonably safely. It is a wonderful amenity. Let’s hope it is left to the people of the area and to the people of Dublin well into the future. Yet, for all the attractiveness of the sea, we know too that the sea can be treacherous. Even our sheltered stretch of water can sometimes look quite choppy, never mind the open sea beyond the lighthouse. Those who spend time on the sea learn to treat it with respect, because they know it can be a destructive force as well as a benign one.

The Sea of Galilee was a very large inland lake more than a sea, yet, like a sea, it could turn very nasty due to winds suddenly blowing down onto it from the surrounding hills. Something of the fear that a storm at sea can evoke is very well captured in the way that the disciples address Jesus, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ They could have been forgiven for thinking that Jesus did not care because, according to the gospel, he was asleep as the storm raged. There is a striking contrast between the relaxed demeanour of Jesus in the storm and the great agitation of the disciples. Jesus was clearly coping with the storm better than they were. Having been rebuked by his disciples, Jesus goes on to rebuke them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They had been with Jesus for some time and had witnessed God powerfully at work in and through him. That experience should have been enough to reassure them that, in spite of the raging storm, all would be well, because Jesus was with them. He had said to them at the beginning of their journey, ‘let us cross over to the other side.’ They should have trusted that, with Jesus with them, they would make it to the other side, in spite of the storm they were encountering.

The church’s reputation has gone through stormy waters in recent times. Unlike the storm on the lake, the storms the church has been battling are, to a large extent, of our leaders’ own making, by covering up cases of abuse in order to safeguard reputation. Perhaps, in the midst of these storms some of us may have been tempted to cry out with the disciples in the boat, ‘we are going down.’ We may be asking, like those disciples, where is the Lord in all of this? Like them, we may find ourselves fearful and losing faith as the church lurches from side to side in the stormy waters.

One of the messages of the storm story is that the Lord remains with the church in the storm. The Lord is present to his fearful and faithless disciples. He may rebuke us as he rebuked those disciples in the boat. However, his presence to us in the storm is not just a rebuking presence. It is ultimately a creative and life-giving presence. Jesus brought calm out of the chaos; he tamed the storm and saw to it that the boat reached the other side. The Lord remains stronger than the storms that threaten the church, whether those storms are self-inflicted or brought on by others or a combination of both.

Like the apostles, we need to trust that Our Lord works to bring his church through the storm to a new place where, as in their case, fear gives way to awe and their rebuking question, ‘Master, do you not care?’ gives way to amazement, ‘Who can this be? Even the winds and sea obey him.’ This conviction (that the Lord of the church is stronger than the storm) should not make us complacent. Yet, it keeps us hopeful and faithful, even when so much seems under threat. Today’s responsorial psalm assures us that if we cry to the Lord in our need he will rescue us from our distress. Our need and distress can open us up more fully to the Lord’s life-giving presence among us.

Saint Paul makes a wonderful statement at the beginning of that second reading, ‘the love of Christ overwhelms us.’ Another translation would be ‘the love of Christ urges us on.’ The love of Christ for us was revealed above all in his death on the cross. As Paul says in his letter to the Romans, ‘God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.’ It is that remarkable love of God in Christ for us that urges us on, even when we are battling against a headwind. It urges us on until we reach what the gospel calls ‘the other side’, the place towards which the Lord is guiding the church — the place where he wants us all to be.


One Response

  1. Thara Benedicta

    Key Message:
    With Jesus in our boat, we will always reach the shore.


    Takeaway from First Reading:
    God says to Job in the first reading that He has commanded the proud waves of the sea, “Only this far you shall come and no farther”, and the proud waves stopped at the shore. This is synonymous with Jesus stopping the stormy rain, wind, and sea in today’s Gospel. The first reading is about how our God the Father always limits our sufferings. There is no part in God’s plan which says that our sufferings will be endless or limitless. Sin brings sufferings to both the sinner and saint. The saints sacrifice themselves for the salvation of the sinners and sinners pay the price of their sins until they repent.

    Takeaway from Second Reading:
    Apostle Paul says that we need to live for Christ alone. Once we determine that we are going to live for Christ alone, then we begin to transform into a new person. Neither our work or home or family changes, but we will have a complete change in attitude. Things will not disturb us easily and we will experience more peace and joy. When our mind constantly thinks of living for Christ alone, slowly we will become selfless. This is the hardest battle of anyone’s life – overcoming selfishness. Instead of thinking “What’s in it for me?”, we will start thinking, “What can I do for our dear Jesus?” The sad Saul became a very happy Paul when he willingly embraced the new life God gave him. God is calling us also to become a new creation in Christ.

    How to become a new creation in Christ?
    We need to have a desire to change our thoughts, words, and actions according to Christ.
    We would have been an angry, irritable person or lazy one… it can be anything of that kind. The willingness to change ourselves is necessary to enjoy the new life in Christ. We may be able to think of excuses like –c“These are born in me, so I cannot change” or “With such a set of people around me, I need to be like this” or “With my bad childhood, I have become like this”. All these thoughts will not allow us to move forward. It will make us remain where we are.
    Steps for enjoying the new life in Christ:
    a. Know that if God says there is new life, it is for us too.
    b. Be ready to change for the good. We all have only one life.
    c. There are Bible verses for every problem. At any time we can choose one area where we can discipline ourselves.
    Example: If we want to suppress our anger: Ephesians 4:26-27: ‘“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.’
    From this verse, we can infer that:
    i. Anger is not a sin
    ii. While getting the feeling of anger, we should not sin. Like venting our anger on others by shouting and so on… We should not show our feeling of anger to others by injuring them. When our children make us angry, there is no use in shouting at them, indirectly we are teaching them how to shout.
    iii. For example, when we know that there is one person in our family who will definitely tempt us to get angry, let us make a resolution in our heart that regardless of how much s/he tempts us to get angry, we will not lose our cool. It works!! An advantage of this strategy is, this makes the other person lose his/her temptation to tempt us and he/she will try to obey us.
    iv. We should not carry our anger to the next day. Before we sleep, we should sort it out, so that it does not grow more and more.
    d. If we are unable to search for the ‘what to do verses’ manually in the Bible, then we too can google it!!

    The takeaway from the Gospel Reading:
    We will primarily focus on the following takeaways from today’s Gospel reading.
    1. To always have Jesus in our boat (either awake/sleeping);
    2. Not to fear during critical challenges, because Jesus will take care of us;
    3. To have an attitude of submission and endurance;
    4. With Jesus in our boat, we will surely reach the other side (accomplish our purpose on earth).

    1. To have Jesus in our little boat (either awake/sleeping):
    Boat refers to – our individual heart, our church, our family, an institution, whatever it may be. Jesus needs to be there.
    When will Jesus be in our boat? He keeps knocking to enter our boat. We only have to open the doors of our hearts for Him by having a conversation with Him always. God created mankind to love Him and have a conversation with Him. God liked to have a walk and chat with Adam and Eve (from the book of Genesis). So it’s a deep longing in our God’s heart always to chat with us. Can we chat with our Jesus?

    2. No need to fear during critical challenges, because Jesus will take care of us:
    Jesus was surprised that the disciples did not hold their peace in the storm. As the storm was great and the boat was sinking, the disciples responded to their first natural impulse – fear. Yet Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the boat. Jesus responded by saying, “There is nothing to fear. Even when you feel the whole world is falling apart, when I am with you, do not fear”.

    I remember an old aunt who lost her husband and then her only daughter in her later years. Her daughter had a 10-year-old child when she died. The child’s father remarried and was not taking care of his son. So this aunt was taking care of her grandson. She was also having a couple of health issues, but they had enough finance to live comfortably. It was distressing for me to see both of them. I was saying to God, how come there is no middle-aged person in the family to take care of the aunt and her grandson? I simply heard the reply, “I have given her courage, isn’t it enough?” I called the aunt and told her. She immediately acknowledged it and said, “True, I know that God has given me the required courage to take care of me and my grandson. I don’t know how I will take care, but I know God will certainly take care of us”. Of late, I have witnessed God sending some middle-aged friends to help her out in her critical needs. Our God always equips us with the required power to run our life during our life’s storm. At times we would not have recognised the power God has bestowed on us to get through the storm. If we are enveloped with fear, let us ask our Jesus to give us the grace of courage to run our lives courageously.

    3. To have an attitude of submission and endurance:
    We read that the disciples woke up Jesus from His sleep because they did not have any hope. It was too much for them to take. Think about this – If the disciples would not have woken up our Jesus, would He have left the disciples to drown and die? Surely not. Before the storm could actually drown everyone Jesus would have got up on His own and stopped the storm. Will we be able to wait until Jesus gets up on His own or will we wake Him up? It is all in the difference in the kind of prayer we do. Do we pray, “Jesus, please give us the strength to persevere in this storm” or “Jesus, please calm the storm”?

    4. With Jesus in our boat, we will surely reach the other side (complete our purpose on earth):
    At the beginning of this story, Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side”. Finally, Jesus and His disciples reached the other side safely i.e. irrespective of the storm during the middle of the journey, they completed their journey. When we are searching for a job or waiting to get married or having a child or recovering from sickness or … whatever it may be, whenever our Jesus says, “Let us go to the other side”, irrespective of however fierce the storm is in the middle, we will always reach the shore finally.
    Let us row our boats with Jesus inside the boat!!