“Moses said to YHWH, “But, never in my life have I been a man of eloquence,
either before or since you have spoken to your servant.” Ex 4:10
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B:
Questions in Times Of Crisis
Jesus' invitation in the gospel of Mark (4:35-41) for this Sunday is for us to "cross over to the other side." This invitation could mean different things for each of us. As a church, "the other side" might mean, a challenge us to give more attention to those not part of our faith-community: the less respectable; the newly arrived immigrant; the homeless, elderly, divorced, gay, infirmed and dying; those displaced by war and living in refugee camps. At a personal level, "to the other side" mean, those whom have we kept at a distance in our lives? or what is it that brings fear into my lives? We may not literally know what a storm at sea is like, but, we know what a storm in our lives is like. Maybe our storm has been; the breakup of a long relationship; or a lost dream; or the loss of a job and family security; or a marriage in crisis; or the loss of spiritual meaning and direction. Such experiences can lead us to feel overwhelmed and at the same time help us to know what the disciples in the gospel story knew about "waves breaking over the boat." The strong waves of fear can leave us feeling; helpless and terrified and calling out for help. Maybe we have felt that and despite all our prayerful crying out Jesus it seemed he was asleep. It is easy to feel this way when we feel he is absent just when we need him the most; how he doesn't seem to show up and do something right away; how we have to struggled on our own to keep from going under and panic moves in to make a home in us. We cry out and question from the storm of life, as the disciples did in the boat, "Master, do you not care? We are going down!" I'm sure we can identify with this part of the story.
As we read on we find the grace of the story: even though we have turned to him only because we are up to our necks in trouble. Helplessness has led us to our knees, yet he is there with us 'asking the same questions' he asked those in the boat, "Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?" These questions are not so much a rebuke but a reminder that our little faith has not turned him away and he does do something for us. Granted, he does not always act as miraculously as he did for the terrified disciples, by turning the stormy seas into a calm lake. At times, it does seem Jesus 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?" 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, but because of the One who seemed asleep, was right there by our side in the storm whether we felt him there or not. The insightful poem 'footprints' reminds us that; "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you." The Jesus who 'sleeps or speaks' is the One always with us.
At present I have the privilege of journeying with a elderly man who has life threatening cancer. He is a person who has over many years nurtured his faith over many years through prayerful reading and study of scripture and I want to honour his struggle and not make it sound trite, or an easy victory. I am sure when the cancer first appeared it threw his life into chaos, robbed him of sleep, and took a terrible toll on his physical and emotional life and the life of his family. He has been through the 'breaking waves' of chemo and radiation therapy. He does not know what the immediate future holds, but his strong faith keeps him anchored in the present with Christ. In his daily prayer he is able to trust that what is needed for today will be given to him in the face of any new storm. I would say that this is the type of faith that Jesus was looking for in his disciples. The Lord want to build up our faith through his word in scripture and through the gift of the Eucharist, especially when we are experiencing rough passages in our lives. Christ gives us himself this day, and can speaks as creations master, into the stormy waves of our life saying "peace be still". The reading from Job (38:1-4, 8-11) describes God speaking to Job "out of the storm" which is a manifestation of God's power and presence. This manifestation happens in the gospel as well. At this point in the story of Job, each of his so called "comforters" have 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 and that includes the waters of the sea. So we can hear or read the gospel through the instruction that Job received, when Jesus 'through whom all things we made' manifests his authority over the storm by saying "peace be still." Remember, God is near