The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Job 38:1,8-11 + 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 + Mark 4:35-41
June 21, 2009
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
The people who said this were disciples: people who were close to Jesus, and to whom Jesus had dedicated a lot of His time. It’s because of Jesus’ dedication that their question seems strange. Shouldn’t they know better? Shouldn’t they have some idea that Jesus is more than just a teacher?
In this, these disciples are you and me. In their ignorance of who Jesus really is, we can see a likeness of ourselves. And this is one of the sources of so much trouble, agitation and discord in our lives. The problem isn’t with Jesus. The problem is with us. These disciples ask, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” [PAUSE]
Strike one, and strike two. These disciples make two mistakes here. Not only are they mistaken in thinking that Jesus is nothing more than a teacher. In fact, that’s the lesser of their two mistakes. The worse mistake is what they accuse Jesus of, when they ask, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Do you ever say something like this when you pray to God? Do you ever say to Him, “Don’t You care?” “Why aren’t You doing something?” “Don’t You see what’s happening in my life?”
Of course, all of these questions really boil down to the same thing, the same fear, the same question: the question that we dare not ask. “Don’t You love me, God?”
The implication of this question is what naturally follows: namely, our saying to God, “If You did love me, You never would have allowed things to get this bad in my life.” Or in other words, we might pray: “I can’t do anything about this mess, but You surely can. And since You’re choosing not to help me, You must not love me.”
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Let’s go back to the first reading for a bit. Our First Reading is from the Old Testament Book of Job. We all know the basic story of Job:
Job is a man with many blessings in his life. And then, one by one, the devil strikes at Job, taking away blessing, after blessing, after blessing. He loses his fortune and his health. Even his children are struck dead.
But the devil’s temptation of Job is actually a two-edged sword. The devil not only tempts Job by taking things away from him. That’s the first source of temptation, but not the worse. The worse source of temptation comes when the devil works through those closest to Job. Three of his buddies, and his wife as well, try to get Job to throw in the towel. They want him to curse God, and die. They want him to say to God, in effect, “You don’t love me, and so I have no reason to live any longer.” The reasoning behind this is that the loss of blessings, and the loss of support from his friends and spouse are all signs telling him that God no longer exists in his life.
Our First Reading today comes from the end of the Book of Job. After Job confronts God, the Lord replies. (And notice: the Lord addresses Job… “out of the storm.”) The Lord says, in effect, “Who do you think that you are?” The Lord questions Job by comparing Job’s smallness to all that God created. God rhetorically asks Job, “Who shut [the sea] within doors…, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands?” God is asking, “Who are you, Job? And where were you when I created the heavens and the earth?”
It’s all a question of identity: who is Job, and who is God? Job has been challenging God, questioning what kind of a God He must be. And God responds by (rhetorically) questioning who Job is: prodding Job to reflect on Job’s own identity. Because when Job realizes who Job is, he will be in a better position to ask who God is.
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“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
For the disciples in the boat, as they are tossed and pitched about, the same dynamic is at work. They need to answer these two questions: “Who am I?” and “Who is God?” And the first question has to be answered first, before we can try to answer the second.
The same dynamic is at work as you are pitched and tossed about in the storm that we call “life”. In our prayers, we wonder and we ask whether God cares for us. And as we ask this question about God’s love, we in turn wonder who we are, and whether our own lives have meaning. After all, if God does not love me, what hope—what future—does my life have?
There is only hope—there is only a future for us—if our lives are rooted in Christ. The answer to the question of the storm-tossed disciples is given by Saint Paul in our Second Reading. The answer to the questions of our daily lives is given to us by Saint Paul.
As he reflects, looking back in time many decades after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, Saint Paul could see what the storm-tossed disciples could not. Saint Paul proclaims:
The storm-tossed disciples saw only a Teacher. They could not see a Savior. They only knew Christ according to the flesh: that is, with earthly eyes. They did not see Christ with eyes of faith.
Nor did they look at their own lives with eyes of faith. If they had, they would have seen more than just storm-tossed, weary, frightened people. They would have seen themselves as people loved by God: people loved by a God who protects His beloved from anything that can truly harm them.
I mentioned how there were two strikes made when the storm-tossed disciples cried out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” In fact, there are three strikes here. The first is seeing only a teacher in Jesus. The second is thinking that Jesus does not care about them. But the third strike is thinking that they are perishing.
If the Lord is with you, you will not perish. If you live your life in Christ, there is nothing you cannot endure. Because in Christ, we are a new creation. He has not made us for this world, but for leading a life that travels through this would on a journey, drawing others with us into the peace of God’s presence.