Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Michael Parish, Lowell, MA
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
June 21, 2015
Job 38:1.8-11, Ps 107, 2 Cor 5:14-17, Mk 4:35-41
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following text guided the homily:
Trusting in Jesus’ Continuous Loving Power
Today’s Gospel about Jesus’ calming of the winds and the seas is much more than a demonstration of the Lord’s power over the forces of nature. He who with a word created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all they contain, with a word could calm them. And, as we see in the Gospel, he did.
Neither is today’s Gospel is a manifestation of the failure of the apostles to believe in this power of Jesus. They knew that he had the power, which is why they woke him up in the first place. In the days immediately preceding this miracle, they had already seen him cast out demons, cure Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and others who were ill, heal lepers, forgive the sins and paralysis of a crippled man, and straighten a man’s withered hand. There were no doubts about Jesus’ omnipotence.
The point of today’s Gospel is that, even though they knew Jesus had the power to calm the seas and the wind, they began to doubt whether he would do so. It is a display of their failure to believe in Jesus’ love for them. We see this in the question they asked as soon as they startled Jesus from what must have been a very deep and long-overdue sleep on an uncomfortable and rocky boat: “Master, do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you not care?! They had begun to doubt whether Jesus gave a hoot whether they drowned in the lake. They had begun to question whether he was indifferent to their plight. “Teacher, do you not care that we are about to die?”
Jesus’ whole life, of course, is an answer to that question. He did care that we were about to die and that was the reason why the Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, took our human nature and was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He cared enough that he spent himself to the point of exhaustion teaching, healing the sick and comforting the afflicted. He cared enough ultimately to take our place on death row, giving his life so that we might survive. Yes, he did care! Like Jonah, who was tossed into the sea in order to calm the ferocious storm of the sea, so Jesus tossed himself overboard to quell the tempests that were causing us to die. As he hurled himself into the abyss from the Cross, he calmed the storm of sin so that we might reach the eternal shore. He did care!
The way we can doubt Jesus’ continued love
The problem was that the apostles doubted in his loving concern. In this the twelve were like the twelve tribes of Israel 1300 years before. After they had witnessed God’s hand in the ten plagues of Egypt, after they had seen him part the Red Sea, after they had seen pharoah’s horsemen and chariots perish in the sea, after they had witnessed Moses’ strike the rock to provide them water, after they had been fed miraculously with manna and then quails from heaven, after they had seen the thunder and lightening of Moses’ conversations with God on the top of Mt. Sinai, the Jews continued to doubt in God’s love for them. They obviously knew that God had the power — he had already shown them this power on all these occasions — but they doubted whether he would continue to use that power to help them. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt,” they complained to Moses, “that you have taken us away to die in the desert?” (Ex 14:11). Whenever anything got difficult, they grumbled. They doubted. They began to whether God’s solicitude had an expiration date. His past actions didn’t factor into their equation.
The same thing was happening with their descendents in the boat. They had witnessed Jesus’ power and his goodness on so many occasions, but they began to wonder whether his love — not his power — had a limit. They began to question whether he was indifferent to their plight. It was, simply put, a lack of faith in who he was, based on a failure to grasp the meaning of all he had done up until then. That’s why Jesus, as soon as he had awakened and calmed the seas and the wind, turned to his followers and said, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The same lack of faith that happened to the Jews in the desert and to the apostles on the Sea of Galilee can happen to all of us. Generally, few of us question whether God has the power to work a miracle, but very often we begin to wonder whether he has the will. We, too, can begin to think that he is indifferent to our plight. When we’re assailed by the storms of sorrow, the downpours of doubt, the twisters of uncertainty, the hail of anxiety, and the blizzards of loneliness, we can start to imagine that he is having sweet dreams while we’re experiencing nightmares. We can start to reckon that he’s snoring while we’re screaming for help. This happens when we, like the twelve tribes and the twelve apostles, begin to forget all that the Lord has done for us up until now and what that shows about who he is and how loved we are by him. As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “If God didn’t even spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, would he not give us everything else along with him? (Rom 8:32). If God the Father was willing to allow his Son to be brutally killed so that we might live, he is going to respond with love in every circumstance, by giving us what he knows we need. But we need to have faith in him and in the power of his divine love. The apostles were anxious in the boat because they were paying more attention to the waves and to the winds around them than to the presence of Jesus with them. We, like them, need to focus more on Christ than on our problems. We, like them, need to mean what we prayed in today’s psalm when over and again we said, “Give thanks to the Lord: his love is everlasting!,” because when our spiritual ancestors “cried to the Lord in their distress, from their straits he rescued them, he hushed the storm to a gentle breeze and the billows of the seas were stilled.” This gratitude for the many times the Lord has rescued us, which leads to a confidence he will always be there for us, is the mark of a life of faith. Jesus turns to us in the midst of whatever hardships we are experiencing and says, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” To believe in him means not just to trust in his power, but to have faith in his ever present goodness and love.
Having Confidence in the Love of the Father shown in Jesus
There are many possible applications of the lessons we learn from today’s Gospel, but on this day in which we celebrate the gift of fatherhood and pray for and thank all our dads living or deceased, it is fitting for us to celebrate the love of God the Father and thank him for the fatherly love he never ceases to show us. Jesus came into the world to reveal the love of his Father for us and to show us how to love him back by receiving the Father’s love, by speaking to him with filial confidence, by seeking to become more and more like him in the way we love others. Earthly fathers, like the dads here present, and spiritual fathers, like Cardinal O’Malley, Fathers O’Hara, Rossi, and Komu, like your new spiritual father, Fr. Guy Sciacca, who will be arriving in 11 days, like me and priests, all of us — biological, adoptive and spiritual fathers — have so much to learn about being good dad by learning what Jesus, who is the image of the Father (Jn 14:9), has revealed about the fatherhood of God the Father.
A few days ago at daily Mass, in one of my favorite passages from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about the confidence we should have in the love of God the Father. Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:25-33). If Jesus is saying that we shouldn’t fear receiving our most fundamental human needs — food, drink, clothing, shelter — then he is all the more saying that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be eaten alive by all of the other fears that can sometimes torture us. God the Father knows what we need. He loves us far more than he cares for the sparrows and the lilies. And Jesus wants us to have that confidence. God the Father is not asleep, although sometimes we are asleep to the real power of his love! Many fathers at times in their lives do worry about how to provide for their families they love. They are terrified over the consequences of losing their job or not being able to find a good one. The same thing can happen to spiritual fathers who worry how they’re going to pay the bills to keep a parish or a parish school afloat or to help the many poor families who are struggling within their parish. How important it is for all spiritual dads to recognize that they’re not fathering alone. God the Father wants to father through them. Jesus promises that God the Father will always be there providing for what we really need. And on this Father’s Day, we thank him for loving us that much. Jesus taught us to pray confidently to the Father, “Give us today our daily bread!,” and most of us are able to say that we have never gone a day in which the Father hasn’t, in one way or the other, heard and responded to that prayer. God the Father always provides and earthly fatherhood shares in, and seeks to imitate, his paternal provision.
The Other Ways God the Father Shows us His Love for Us
Jesus also revealed several other elements about his Father’s love, about how the Father provides for us, for which we thank God the Father today and pray that all biological, adoptive and spiritual dads can emulate. On this Father’s Day, as a homage of gratitude to God the Father and as a nod to the ways our dads have lived up to their Christian duty to exercise their paternity according to this divine model, please allow me briefly to list some of them:
- Jesus says that God the Father takes delight in all of his children: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased,” God the Father thunders at Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:17). Fathers must express their love for and joy in their children. This is the basic underpinning for all paternal interactions.
- Jesus reveals that the Father loves unconditionally. Jesus says he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Mt 5:45). So every Father learns from him how to love not only children who are easy to love but those that are difficult.
- Jesus shows that the Father cares about every one of his children, not wanting one to perish (Mt 18:14). He sent Jesus to rescue us from perishing eternally and gives the pattern of the life-saving protection to which every father aspires.
- He shows how generous the Father is. Even more than parents know how to give good gifts to their children, Jesus tells us, God the Father will give of himself to all his children who ask (Mt 6:26; 7:11). He shows us that far more than things, the greatest gift a dad gives is the gift of himself, the gift of his time, the gift of his life experiences, the gift of his heart.
- Jesus reveals that the Father is observant. He sees what is done in secret and rewards. He pays such good attention that he knows what is needed even before it is asked (Mt 6:4, 8). What a great model for every father to pay attention to his children.
- Jesus shows that the Father is a teacher. He reveals the mysteries of the kingdom to the merest of babes, he helps people to come to know Jesus’ identity as Messiah and Lord, he draws people to his Son in the Eucharist (Mt 11:25-26; Mt 16-17; Jn 6:44-46). Every dad is called to be a wise teacher in this way, bringing daughters and sons to God.
- Jesus describes just how merciful in the Parable of the Prodigal Son and so many other places and calls human fathers explicitly to be as merciful as he is (Lk 6:36). What a beautiful experience it is for both a father and a child to experience that type of paternal forgiveness, and to be able to give it, fathers need to receive it often in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
- Jesus shows that the Father disciplines, but disciplines always out of love. “What son is there whom his father does not discipline?,” the Letter to the Hebrews queries (12:5-11). There can be no disciples without loving discipline, and the Father’s discipline is meant not to punish but to help form children more and more as disciples of God.
- Jesus reveals that the Father works. “My Father is working still,” Jesus says (Jn 5:17). It’s key for fathers to be hard-workers and to help their kids become hard workers, in the image of Christ who imitated his Father’s and foster father’s hard work. I rejoice that I’m able to celebrate this Mass here at St. Michael’s in the presence of my own Father. His hard work not only provided for all of us kids, but provided an example of diligence that I have always tried to live up to in my priestly work.
- Lastly, Jesus reveals that God the Father wants to share life to the full with his children. “This is the will of my Father,” he says, “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.” From God the Father, human dad learn how to make it their will and desire to share their earthly life with their children and strive with their children to share eternal life together.
All of these traits show us just how much and how God the Father loves us, how and how much he cares for us, how and how much he wants us to believe in and trust in his love. This is the same essential lesson Jesus imparts to us in today’s Gospel, a lesson that is meant to transform our life and fill it with confidence and joy.
Coming with Jesus to the Eternal Father’s Day
Jesus’ abiding presence is for us a reminder of just how much God the Father loves and cares. In his last words before ascending into heaven, when he gave us the mission to sail through the whole world, proclaiming the Gospel, to baptizing and celebrating the sacraments, and putting the word of God into practice, he told us “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” — that same authority that he used to quell the storm. Then he reminded us of his presence with us in this ship: “Know that I am with you always until the end of time.” Jesus remains with us, as the icon of the love of the Father, and he remains with us in a special way here in this Church. The early Christians, as soon as they started to build churches, used to call the body of the Church the “nave,” from the Latin word navis for “ship.” Here, just like 2,000 years ago, Jesus is in the boat, even if at times he is quiet and seemingly asleep. But today he wishes to do more for us today than he did even for his disciples on the sea of Galilee. He will awaken not only to speak a word to calm the seas around us, but rather he will say, “This is my body… This is the chalice of my blood… Take and eat … Take and drink,” so that from the inside he can feed us to calm the storms within. As we prepare to receive him now, the fullest response to our prayer to the Father to give us today what we really need, we ask him to take away our fears and to increase our faith, so that we may rejoice in the gift of his presence here in this nave of the Church, believe in his power, trust in his love, and with the other members of the Church carry out the rescue mission as his spiritual coast guard all the way until we land at the eternal dock and come triumphant to the Father’s House to celebrate Father’s Day forever!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 JB 38:1, 8-11
Who shut within doors the sea,
when it burst forth from the womb;
when I made the clouds its garment
and thick darkness its swaddling bands?
When I set limits for it
and fastened the bar of its door,
and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther,
and here shall your proud waves be stilled!
Responsorial Psalm PS 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31
They who sailed the sea in ships,
trading on the deep waters,
These saw the works of the LORD
and his wonders in the abyss.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.
His command raised up a storm wind
which tossed its waves on high.
They mounted up to heaven; they sank to the depths;
their hearts melted away in their plight.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.
They cried to the LORD in their distress;
from their straits he rescued them,
He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze,
and the billows of the sea were stilled.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.
They rejoiced that they were calmed,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his kindness
and his wondrous deeds to the children of men.
R. Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.
Reading 2 2 COR 5:14-17
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
Alleluia LK 7:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has risen in our midst,
God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 4:35-41
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”