CATHOLIC HOMILY FOR THE 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
THEME: PEACE, BE STILL
BY: Fr. Jude Chijioke
HOMILY: Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; Ps: 107; 2 Cor 5: 14-17; Mk 4: 35-41
Jesus in the preceding gospel narrative, after announcing to the disciples and the crowds some parables from a boat off the shore (Mk 4: 1-34), decides to visit the other side of the Sea of Galilee: it is an “exit” from the Holy land of Israel towards a land inhabited by pagans. Why this bold decision? Because Jesus, while feeling “sent first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24), wants to announce God’s mercy also to the peoples of other nations.
But this will of Jesus is opposed by the sea, a place where the forces of evil are unleashed in a storm. We must not forget that for the Jews the sea was a great enemy conquered by the Lord when he brought his people out of the land of Egypt (Ex 14: 15-31); it stands for the residence of Leviathan, the sea monster (Job 3,8; Ps 74,14); it was a great abyss which, when unleashed its strength, frightened sailors (Ps 107: 23-27). And here the power of the devil manifests itself in a stormy wind, which drives the waves into the boat and tries to sink it. It was night, the hour of darkness, and having been conquered by fear the disciples were no longer able to steer the boat. The shipwreck now seemed imminent and inevitable, yet on the face of this impending doom Jesus was asleep.
The disciples then, in anguish, became so impatient with Him, so they decide to wake Him in a way that is certainly not reverential: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”. Eloquently, they called him teacher (didáskalos) and with these brusque words they contested his inertia and sleep. Words that in Matthew’s version will become a prayer – “Lord (Kýrios), (a name that is used interchangeably with Yahweh (God) in the bible) save us, we are lost!” (Mt 8:25) – and in that of Luke a call – “Master, teacher (epistátes), we are lost!” (Lk 8:24) -. Mark remembers better the simple and direct relationships, even if not very kind, of the disciples towards Jesus.
Faced with their lack of faith, Jesus rebukes the wind and exorcises the sea, “telling it: ‘Quiet, be still!’. And immediately the wind stopped and there was a great calm”. This miracle has above all a great symbolic meaning because each of us in our life may have felt at certain point immersed in troubled waters. In these situations, especially when they last a long time, we might have the impression that God is actually sleeping, not present, not seeing, not hearing the cries and groans of those who complain. Suffering, anguish, fear, the threat posed to our personal or community existence, the storm of Covid-19, may make us react like the disciples on the boat. For this Jesus must rebuke them with harsh words. He not only asks them: “Why are you terrified”? But he also adds: “Do you not yet have faith?”. Can we truly be disciples of Jesus without faith? Do we follow, listen but do not have full confidence in Jesus?
This trial of the storm on the sea is an announcement of the great trial that awaits the disciples in Jerusalem when they will abandon their master (Mk 14.50). But only in the empty tomb and the contemplation of Jesus dead and risen can authentic faith emerge, a faith that generate a great confession of faith in Jesus as the victor and conqueror over evil and death. As witnesses of the Risen Lord, let us like them become capable of facing the storm that will befall us: persecution on account of our faith in Jesus Christ.
-Fr. Jude Chijioke