“Do you not care” – the words kind of jump off the page when you read them. The apostles have that very raw outcry to Jesus in the midst of what is described as a sudden violent storm emerging that has just as quickly summoned up -fears of their safety and security… -questions about how they found themselves in this situation, why weren’t they protected from such crises after leaving everything behind to follow Jesus… -even doubts about Jesus himself.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read this, my homily for 12TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME- June 20, 2021, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again… I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim
Up until this point in Mark’s Gospel, things had been utterly amazing: -They had heard God the Father’s voice from the Heavens calling Jesus His beloved son as John the Baptist baptized Him in the Jordan. – They had witnessed Jesus exorcize a demon. – Simon-Peter’s Mother-in-law, lying in bed with a potentially deadly fever is immediately healed and brought to full health by Jesus’ grabbing her hand (that moments later she gets up from her sickbed and starts cooking and providing hospitality for Jesus) – Jesus cleanses leprosy, restores a paralytic unable to walk and another who’s hand was withered, all things that in the normal course of affairs never happened (and still don’t) to people suffering from these predicaments. People are being told that their sins were forgiven and experiencing divine mercy in personal, intimate ways they had never had before.
These weren’t just things that the apostles heard about, they had witnessed and experienced for themselves what happened in each of those experiences. The movement from life being ordinary with its burdens, worries, and anxieties to immediately be transformed by Jesus’ word and presence. Yet now, as they are in this boat traveling at night, on a sea, surrounded by mountains – making the darkness seem more ominous than ever – with this deadly squall unexpectedly arising, those memories of those experiences seem like ancient history. How can Jesus be at sleep? Shouldn’t He know what’s happening? Why didn’t He prevent this? Why isn’t He doing anything to help us? Jesus, Do you not care?
We might not be on an open sea – we may never have traveled by boat – yet, more than likely, every one of us can relate to those thoughts and feelings. We are moving along in life and then we find ourselves confronted with difficulties in the family – a son is abusing drugs; a daughter is suffering from an eating disorder… a health crisis emerges for a parent; we get a bad diagnosis from the doctor; there’s talk of downsizing, positions being cut at work… a loved one who has died leaves an absence that, no time has not healed. Not that things were perfect before any of these events- life can be chaotic on a good day – but we were able to manage, had gotten used to that ordinary challenges. As we were busy attending to them, we didn’t notice clouds were building, our seas were getting choppy – and without warning we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed like we’re going to capsize, going to drown. It can be somewhat comforting to know that Jesus’ innermost circle was saying something we might hesitate to say ourselves out of a sense of respect, yet interiorly we wonder: Jesus, Do you not care…
Jesus waking first performs an even more amazing miracle than they have witnessed so far: the effects of forgiving sins are invisible and beyond at least empirical proof; cures can be dismissed as merely ‘psychological’ [even though it’s hard to write off leprosy, paralysis and a withered hand being made whole]. But our rational, logical minds try to explain away such things (Michael Casey Fully Human Fully Divine) – But commanding the wind and sea to “Quiet, be still?” Defies any explanation. It’s unprecedented. Leaving them somewhat even more scared than they were with the storm. He then answers their questions with questions: Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith? You can hear the shock, the wonder, and awe of the moment for the apostles as they say- Who then is this, whom even wind and sea obey – while at the same time, they never do answer Jesus’ questions.
That’s probably where the ability to relate with the apostles ends for us. The immediacy of nature being tamed by the miraculous presence of Jesus seems remote, distant from our experience. What are we to make of the storms of our lives? Where is Jesus? We are still left asking Jesus, Do you not care?
A few months ago, all of the students from the Catholic Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, had a retreat based on this Gospel passage, and one of the talks, (given by Fr. Bill Sheridan) introduced a letter that was written by St Therese of Lisieux (who is affectionately known as “the Little Flower”) to her younger sister Celine. Celine was wrestling with both the inconsolable grief over the loss of her father and at the same time was at a loss with questions about what to do with her life, what was her vocation. Celine felt lonely and scared, she was overwhelmed and struggling and didn’t know what to make of all her feelings and the seeming absence of Jesus from her life, when her sister Therese wrote to her citing this Gospel.
My Celine… is all alone in a little boat;
the LAND has disappeared from her eyes,
she does not know where she is going,
whether she is advancing or if she is going backward…
[she] is on the OPEN SEA;
the boat carrying her is advancing with full sails toward the port,
and the rudder which Celine cannot even see is not without a pilot.
Jesus is there,
SLEEPING as in days gone by, in the boat of the fishermen of Galilee.
He is sleeping…and Celine does not SEE HIM, for night has fallen on the boat…
Celine DOES NOT HEAR the voice of Jesus.
The wind is blowing, she HEARS it; she SEES the darkness…
and Jesus IS always SLEEPING.
However, if he were to awaken only for an instant,
He should only command the wind and the sea, and there would be a great calm.
The night would become brighter than day,
Celine would SEE THE DIVINE GLANCE of Jesus,
and her soul would be consoled…
But Jesus, too, would no longer be sleeping, and He is so FATIGUED!…
His divine feet are tired from going after sinners,
and in Celine’s boat Jesus is sleeping so peacefully.
The apostles had given Him a pillow.
The Gospel gives us this detail.
But in [this] boat Our Lord finds another pillow much softer,
There He forgets all, He is at home…
It is not a stone which supports His divine head (that stone for which he longed during His mortal life),
it is the heart of a CHILD, the heart of a SPOUSE.
Oh, how happy Jesus is!
But how can He be happy while His spouse is suffering,
while she WATCHES during the time He is sleeping so peacefully?
Does He not know that Celine sees only the night,
that His divine face remains hidden from her,
and even at times the weight she feels on her heart seems heavy to her….What a mystery!
Be sure, dear Celine, that your boat is on the open sea, already perhaps
VERY CLOSE TO PORT.
The wind of sorrow that pushes it is the WIND OF LOVE, and this is swifter than lightning…
For so many of us, the struggle is that we have our hearts and minds fixed on what it is we want or need at the moment. A storm comes up, if it were gone, then… then what? We would be right where we were at the moment before the winds blew, the seas stirred and that crisis emerged. But God is never done with us. He is constantly calling us to new horizons which from time to time, takes us out of the comfort of our ordinary lives ultimately to union with Him.
The faith that Jesus is asking about is whether we can appreciate the intimacy of His presence with us. That we get to a place of confidence and trust where we do not allow the winds to distract us; the waves to frighten us; the storms to cause us to forget – that He the one whom even the wind and sea obey – He is here… He is there resting His head on your heart, on my heart, on our hearts. We have not a shadow of a doubt, Jesus does care.