Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B
Job 38:1, 8-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, Mark 4:35-41
The sea has always held a special place of awe for those that have looked upon it. There is something vast and deep, both calming when it peacefully comes onto shore and terrifying when it becomes roiled in a storm. Everyone knows the great sea stories, both real and fiction. Even a small body of water like the Sea of Galilee, which is only eight miles across and thirteen miles long, can have large waves develop from a sudden storm. I guess that is why three of the Gospel writers, when writing about the life of Jesus, included the account that is in today's Gospel, which links the sea and faith. Everyone who steps into a boat makes a decision that they can face up to the risks, and therefore makes a decision about the amount of faith that they have. For some it is a minor thing, for they trust their own ability to swim and their luck. But for others it is more dramatic, maybe because they cannot swim, or easily get motion sick, or cannot see beyond the risk, no matter how remote, that something bad might happen.
Great success rarely comes to anyone who plays it safe – it usually is the result of stepping into an uncertain future but having faith that God has given you the gifts you need to see it through. Christ himself showed us the way, for He too was tested, and before His passion asked the Father to let it pass Him by, but then submitted to His will. This is what Paul tells the Corinthians in the second reading, that He willingly died for us, and as a consequence we are reborn through Him. Therefore it is through Christ's faith, and our faith in God, that Paul says, “the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” [2 Cor 5:17 NABRE]. All from our faith.
The very clear message of the Gospel today is that only God has power over storms, both real storms experienced in nature as well as the metaphorical storms which blow through causing destruction to our lives and plans. There is a common misconception that we are in control of our lives. Successful people almost always attribute too much of their successes solely to their own efforts, and discount the blessings of which they were the beneficiaries. They believe that they could have accomplished the same successes if they had been born in a poor rural town in Asia or Africa, or if they had been afflicted with polio and crippled, or if they had Down's Syndrome, or if they had been diagnosed with a debilitating disease like ALS or Huntington's disease.
Just this week, I received an e-mail from a good friend from high school. He was brilliant as a student, coming in second place in the end-of-year national debate tournament his senior year of high school. He had graduated from Boston College and earned a PhD from MIT, and has been a professor in economics since then, and had served on the staff of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. Several years ago, he was diagnosed with Huntington's disease, which causes the breakdown of the nerves within the brain. There is no cure. He is now 56, and needs a walker to get around and has increasing difficulty getting up the stairs to his apartment. A life-long Catholic, he has always maintained his faith, and is thankful for all that God has given him throughout his life. This last week in an update email to his friends and family, he wrote: “[My last appointment at physical therapy] was a tour de force. I could catch the soccer ball, and also throw the soccer ball, all while moving, and holding a conversation. This combination is hard. From the start I was very open about my disease, since as an educator, and as a patient, this seems the best response to a bad hand.” Throughout his life, my friend has always been a kind, generous, humble, and disciplined man, and I have always admired him. Now I admire him all the more.
It is also appropriate that on this weekend of the year we also say something about fathers, since this is our parish intention for the week that begins with Father's Day. All fathers show their faith both when they become husbands and again when the become fathers. It is very fitting that Pope Francis dedicated this year to Saint Joseph, who should be the role model for every father and husband. Joseph demonstrated faith in God by accepting his role in the incarnation once he was made aware of it. He, like Mary, was given free will by God to accept or decline his part, for surely he sensed that it would bring likely hardships. All fathers, either knowingly or unwittingly, sign up an unknown amount of both “for better and for worse.” Unfortunately not all fathers live up to their covenant with either their wives, or to the children which they have created, and when the storms get too windy they set sail for calmer waters. But steadfast fathers don't do this, and therefore we honor them this weekend. They show faith, and therefore teach it to their children who see it in action. As Billy Graham once said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one's children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.”
As we continue with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, let our reception of God in the Eucharist be our acceptance of God as the source of the many blessings we receive in our lives and be truly thankful for it. Let us have the faith which Jesus tells the apostles and us to have when we say “amen” to this sacrament. Let it provide the strength to deal with the hardships which come with being a part of this world. Let our faith in God be our strength during all the storms we face.