Reflection for Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time: June 20, 2021
Sister Rose Ann Barmann, OSB
As a child growing up on a farm in northwest Missouri, I did not like the months of May and June very much. That was the time of year when we had many thunderstorms, tornadoes and cyclones. I was very frightened by these storms and I prayed to God that if He really loved us, He would let the storms pass over our farm and home; God, you must keep us safe.
We had a cellar-like cave underground about 120 ft from the front porch of our home and inevitably when we decided to go to the cave during a storm, it seemed to me that we were always running right into the storm. One time the storm almost blew my mom away, but she clung to one of the pillars on the porch as the wind whipped her around. While we were waiting in the cave, praying the rosary, we listened to the roar of the storm above us (that roar of the storm sounded like a big zephyr train going over our heads). We all prayed intently that it would pass without damaging us or our farm.
The Word of God for this Twelfth Sunday draws us into the metaphor of “stormy weather” endured by Job, the disciples and yes, us. Our lives often have their stormy patches. It is curious to me that these storm stories of Mark’s Gospel come during some of our most the unsettled weather patterns of the summer months.
In our first reading we are invited to listen in on a conversation between Job and Yahweh. God is reminding Job that He is God over the storms and all creation. God says, “Out of the storms, I shut the doors within the sea, when it burst forth from the womb, I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands?” God says, “I set limits for the sea, this far shall you come but no farther, and your proud waves be stilled! Stop come no closer! “
The author of Job contrasts the powerful storm wrapped in swaddling bands (this imagery recalls Mary wrapping Jesus in swaddling clothes.) The writer of Job compares the thick heavy darkness of the storm to a small vulnerable and delicate infant. The strength of a storm vs. our human fragility.
Our Creator God is almighty and powerful, even power over the natural world of storms, fires, tornadoes and floods.
Many of us can remember the month of June in 2013 when we had to evacuate our monastery in Black Forest because of the fires. We prayed and prayed that the fires would cease, that the winds would change course so the fires would not cross over Hwy 83, east of our monastery.
God heard our pleas and panic; the firefighters got the fires under control just about a quarter mile south of our property. We shed tears of joy, relief and gratitude for God’s ears and heart listening to our prayers. We also believe that our sisters in St. Benedict cemetery were a powerful prayer presence, protecting and praying with us through the fires.
“Who is this whom even the wind and sea obey? “The Gospel tells us of a time when a violent storm or squall came up on the sea of Galilee and the waves were breaking over the sides of the disciples’ boat. Their vessel was filling up with water; an exhausted Jesus was sleeping in the rear of the boat.
The disciples were more than a little exasperated with Jesus for sleeping through the storm while they felt like they were going under and perishing. The frightened disciples yelled at Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus woke up, rebuked the storm and told the sea to be, “Quiet. Be Still”. Then Jesus nonchalantly asks the disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not have faith?” If I had been one of the disciples that day in the boat, I would have been a bit provoked at Jesus for his laissez-faire attitude about the storm, for the waters were overtaking their fragile vessel and filling up their boat.
The disciples may have resented this casual reprimand of Jesus. But Mark does not comment on this piece of the story, just the exasperation and anxiety of the disciples. Jesus just did not seem to “get it,” and he ignores their panic and fear, and he scolds them for their lack of Faith. Really, Jesus!
The deeper message of Jesus in this Gospel for me is, do not panic, trust, believe that God, Jesus, and the Spirit are in charge. Our trinitarian and relational God is with us and dwells with us and among us in every situation.
Our invitation from our God today is to wrap all our anxieties, worries, and fears up in “God’s shawl” and turn it all over to Jesus. Once we do that intentionally and often, you and I can survive any storm.
Yes, we all must face the storms and upsets in our lives-some are small contrary winds, and some seem like insurmountable obstacles and problems. One thing that this Gospel assures us of today that if we are mindful and believe that we are not alone, that Jesus lives and is dwelling within us in our “heart boat”, we can overcome any storm or storms.
Saint Paul assures us that since we are in Christ, we are a new creation, the old fears and worries have passed away, new things have come to us in Christ Jesus. Christ is all and in all. We are invited to deepen our relationship with and in Jesus the Christ. So, like any friendship or relationship we value and hold dear, we need to spend time talking to and leaning on Jesus in our lives; sharing our hopes and fears just as we do with our best and good friend or confident.
God’s desire for us is only good things. “Lord we believe, help our unbelief”. Amen. So be it.