“Do you not care?”  Could there ever be four more relatable words to hear in scripture being addressed on the part of humanity to God?  The apostles seem dumbfounded and angry that as this violent squall rose with high winds, waves spilling into the boat that is about to be filled to the top, Jesus is on a pillow in the stern of the boat, sound asleep.   Think about it – of all the ways they could have approached Jesus, the ferocity and abruptness of their words to awaken Jesus is striking – “Do you not care?”  

Thanks so much for stopping by to read this homily for the 12th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, June 23, 2024.  I appreciate your sharing this on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing- Father Jim

The Gospel of Mark offers us a unique vantage point on the life of Jesus Christ.  It allows us to more easily hear the words, feel the emotions, and imagine the scene as we listen to Mark’s portrayal of Simon Peter’s testimony.  This Gospel is most likely a record of a sermon that Peter preached multiple times, focusing on Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Promised One.  Mark accompanied Peter and transcribed his first-hand account of how Jesus came to save humanity from sin and death, providing more than enough reason for everyone to follow Him. Peter recalls the events as they occurred and is candid and humbled by the experience.

Up to this point in the Gospel, they had left everything behind to follow Jesus.  They had already witnessed amazing healings of illnesses, disabilities, and handicaps; they had seen Jesus perform exorcisms on those possessed by evil demons.  Even more astonishing, they had been empowered to do some of those same things themselves by His power and authority.  After a long day of preaching parables and attending to the crowds, Jesus leads them to the boats to cross to the other side, and that’s when this incident happens.

Justifiably, people’s attention is often drawn to the miracle of Jesus rebuking the wind and it ceasing; and speaking to the sea and it calms down.  The awe and wonder of the moment captured by those words – who then is this, that even wind and sea obey?  The astounding realization that creation could only respond to its creator in such a way and looking at Jesus in their midst makes it enough to make this short passage powerful in itself.

The fact that this Gospel is paired with the first reading from the book of Job invites us to shift our focus.  This ancient Hebrew scripture tells the story of Job, an old, wise and righteous man who suffers tremendous losses and tragedies at Satan’s doing (and God’s allowing), with the question “why do bad things happen to good people” hovering throughout the 41 chapters of this book of the Old Testament.  We hear a snippet of God’s response today where He reveals the marvels of His power over forces of nature, like the wind and the sea.  As drawn out and elaborate as their discussions go on throughout the chapters of this scripture, of all the things that they’ve debated and considered as the cause of this misfortune, Job and his friends have all tiptoed around asking God those 4 words that we hear from the disciples: Do you not care?

That’s why the remembrances of Peter captured by Mark are truly a gift. For those of us who may be hesitant to speak to Jesus with such intensity and honesty, Peter’s words can be refreshing to hear.  It’s as if we’re being given permission to be just as intense and honest in articulating what is going on in our hearts and souls.  This is especially true when we’ve lost a job, when we’re struggling with an addiction, when we’ve received troubling news from a doctor, when a family member is telling lies, or when a coworker has maligned us and seems to be getting away with it; when we’ve lost someone we loved…   It can be difficult, and as good people gathered at Sunday Mass in the heat of June, we could easily repurpose Peter’s question:  It captures the feelings we may have when facing challenging situations:  Do You Not Care?

What’s equally interesting is Jesus’ response – “do you not yet have faith?”  What I love the most about this entire Gospel, even more than the miracle, is this back and forth between the apostles and Jesus.  We see another example of what a gift it is of God becoming man in the incarnation with Jesus.  That we can approach and engage God so personally and directly.  Because Jesus doesn’t get insulted by their question. He doesn’t get angry at them.  He doesn’t impose Himself, or His will on them.  He desires the intensity and honesty of their question to open them – and us up to real conversation and a personal relationship with Him. We see and hear that in this exchange.

We have to remember that for those who had followed Jesus the longest and become some of His closest and trusted friends – Peter, Andrew, James and John – they had been fishermen.  Being on a boat in the sea was a common thing that they had a tremendous amount of experience with.  They might have even considered themselves experts at navigating stormy situations.  Maybe they were arguing among themselves about what the next move should be, or compared notes with one another about how the other had handled similar situations or failed at others while the storms were growing more and more fierce.  Did any of them look at Jesus and were waiting simply for Him to do something, rather than going to Him? To admit their helplessness, see their limitations, and humble themselves by asking for Jesus’ help?  All we know for sure is that it took them to be “near death” to wake Him.  What’s shocking is that even then, it was more just this emotional outburst rather than asking for help, looking for answers, or even joy at His presence in their midst: not Lord save us; not Lord what’s happening; not Lord we know with you with us we have nothing to fear-  DO YOU NOT CARE!

I can find myself troubled, angry, or frustrated by things happening in the world, the Church, or my own life.  Sometimes, I catch myself wondering why God allows certain things to happen, or why certain problems haven’t been fixed, or what it will take to see a miracle.  But at the heart when I think about some of those things, what I’m really asking is whether God cares.   I know deep down that He does, but the reality of free will, evil, and sin can be confusing, undermining to those beliefs and just downright frustrating.

However, when I do remember God’s patience and kindness in my own life, I am grateful that He has given me time to turn things around, repent, and change my ways.   That He taught me and gave me time to learn the need to apologize and ask for forgiveness from someone whom I had dismissed because of their wrongdoings.  That He was patient with me until I experienced the impact of truly listening to His words and aligning my will with His, trying to live according to His ways.   In each lesson, I’ve come to understand that His ways are greater than mine and that there’s much more to the picture than I can see.  Knowing that the one whom even the wind and sea obey can be so accessible that I can wake Him up from a sound sleep brings me comfort.  In fact, He reacts completely differently from most people; He is more troubled by those who don’t wake Him up from a deep sleep than by the disturbance itself.

The Gospel asks us that when faced with the storms of life, Do we turn to Jesus in faith and ask for His help, or do we rely on our own strength and understanding?  Do we approach Him with honesty and intensity, like the apostles did, even in moments of doubt and fear? As we reflect on His word, let’s recall that Jesus eagerly invites us to share our concerns, fears, and questions with Him. He does not dismiss us or trivialize our challenges; instead, He meets us where we are and offers His peace and comforting presence amidst life’s storms. Whether we are grappling with professional, relational, health-related, or other trials, we can approach Jesus with the same intensity and honesty that the apostles did, knowing that yes, indeed, He does care for us and is ever ready to provide aid.