Twelfth Sunday of Year (B)
(Job 38: 1, 8-11; Second Corinthians 5:14-17; Saint Mark 4:35-41)
Our first reading spoke dramatically of God’s almighty power, and our Blessed Lord Jesus in the Gospel reading exercised that power in a dramatic way: rebuking the raging wind and waves of Lake Galilee.
The great calm that ensued was not, however, matched by calmness in the hearts of His disciples, for Jesus seems to have rebuked them for still trembling with fear at the memory of the storm’s threat:
Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?
Experiencing fear on being caught in a small boat on one of Galilee’s occasional storms was understandable even for native fishermen who, of course, knew of the Lake’s propensity to storm winds coursing down suddenly from the surrounding heights; but such fear after Jesus had calmed the waters is hardly understandable in such professional fishermen: they lived by, from, their daily fishing of the fruit of those waters of Galilee.
We would have expected Jesus to say, ‘Why were you terrified’. Jesus must therefore have had a special reason for using a word that – to us – seems strange; and such a reason must – knowing Jesus – involve TEACHING.
‘Why are you terrified?’ ... would seem to have meant for Jesus what it can mean for us today:
“Why do you allow yourselves to be terrified?”;
and such an understanding makes Jesus subsequent words not only perfectly understandable but also pregnant with most important teaching:
‘Why do you who should have faith – whom I have called to faith -- allow yourselves to be so overcome by fear?
Jesus is saying:
Supernatural faith is a means, a weapon, to fight against and even to destroy incipient natural fear. Why are you so slow to learn?
People of God, this is most important teaching: Faith is not merely knowledge, an awareness that Jesus is God our Saviour; it is ordained to become a power in our lives: a power to form us ever more and more in obedience to and in the likeness of Jesus, by the power of His Most Holy Spirit bestowed on us originally in Confirmation and renewed in our reception of the ‘daily’ Holy Eucharist.
Catholics who only know their faith are beginners only; that faith has to gradually come to rule in our lives through prayer, through our own deliberate and willing, hoping and beseeching, application of it to our problems and questions, our desires and our aspirations.
And this applies above all to Jesus’ supreme desire -- in life and death --to reveal and make known to us His Father:
This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy name,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ....
Dear People of God, that word ‘Father’ – meaning the God Who made us and Who sent His Son to become flesh of the Virgin for our salvation – should be, should become, by our deliberate prayer, thinking, consideration, longing and beseeching, sublimely meaningful and supremely precious to us. Jesus even advised us as He was nearing His Passion and Death (Matthew 23:9):
Call no one on earth your father; you (My disciples) have but one Father, (and He is) in heaven.
Did Mary tell Jesus as He was growing up about the manner of His conception and birth? Surely not!! She would just have used the normal word ‘Father’ for Joseph’s relationship to Jesus: ‘Your Father and I have sought you ...’
Jesus, however, learned, knew – even better than Mary herself -- by His prayer WHO really was His true Father, WHO was really and truly responsible for His very Being, not just responsible for His upbringing as son of Mary of Nazareth, and for His training as a carpenter.
Our baptism as Catholics, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, has – as St. Paul most insistently tells us – made us a new creation, we are not just flesh and blood, human and mortal; we are children of God, living in the womb of Mother Church an incipiently divine life, to be fed and nourished by the Food of God.
THAT is our only real life, our incipiently eternal, heavenly, and glorious LIFE; and That is why Jesus again uses apparently strange words, because they are both pregnant with divine truth and most significant for our establishment of our own character, the persons we want to be and the persons Jesus promises we can become in Him by His Spirit: children of God not merely children of men.
“Do you not yet have faith?” Jesus said ‘not yet’ because the disciples had already seen many striking miracles of healing performed by Himself, heard Him both discomfit the scribes and Pharisees with His authoritative understanding of the Law and His Lordship over the Sabbath, and had also themselves been charmed with His ability to satisfy large and pressing crowds of simple, unlearned, country people with beautiful parables redolent of a wisdom that was both human and divine.
The disciples knew so much about Jesus, they believed what He told them, but such knowledge and belief was not enough .... the disciples had to introduce, draw, that knowledge, that belief, into their hearts, so that that knowledge might be transformed from mere ideas and notions, to become motives powerful enough to transform their intentions, aspirations, and indeed their whole lives.
Dear People of God, that is also our life purpose and meaning: we are not called to be just believers, we have also to become ‘practitioners’ of our faith in our lives, in all those nooks and crannies we can so easily or fearfully overlook.
May God bless you all in that most holy and life-fulfilling, pursuit.