12th Ordinary – Year B – (2009) – Calm and Still!
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Bottom Line: Mark is saying to early Christians, “We’ve been down this road before. If you think you got it bad, you should have been in the boat that night. Jesus in His own time will rise from sleep and say to our enemies: ‘Quiet. Be still.’ And the Church will move into the second century with all flags flying.”
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong (St. Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA)
12th Ordinary – Year B – (2009)
Calm and Still!
First thing first – I do not know if it is a good or bad news – but I have to tell you anyway. This past week, Bishop Boland called and informed me that I will be leaving Saint Anne…. and coming back to Augusta – Not Saint Mary on the Hill, but Saint Theresa of Avila – effective July 8, 2009. I know some of you are “upsetting” and some cannot wait to leave mass and celebrate my departure, but no matter what moods you are in – we cannot let the “inner storm” affects our time with the Lord! Just like the gospel we have just heart from Matthew – In the mist of the storm, Jesus commanded the storm to be “quite and still!” The same God who did that is here among us – and commanding our heart to be still – so he can talk to us! So let’s place ourselves together for God’s Words to begin!
Jesus and the twelve had spent the daytime hours preaching. They were exhausted. They wanted quiet hours for a fish-fry, wine, conversation, and sleep. But huge crowds pursued Jesus. Then as now He had huge box office draw – bigger than even the movie “the passion!”
He said to them: “Let’s break camp and go to the other side.” But, because it looked like a storm is on its way, the apostles did not want to ship out. Remember some of them were experienced sailors/fishermen. Only reluctantly did they sail with Him.
Peter’s boat would seat a party of thirteen comfortably, so all got in and Jesus began sail with a boatload with a group of very unhappy campers. Soon the exhausted Jesus was in the stern asleep. Initially it was a peaceful sail. The apostles were dozing. The only one working was the muttering Peter at the helm. Then the mother of all storms arose. The “weather man” among the apostles had been correct.
When cold winds come out of the mountains in the north, they whip up the lake with waves six feet high. If you were in a small boat in such a storm, you could forget about sending out a distress signal. Just get on your knees and sing, “I’m Coming Home, Lord.” Humongous waves were washing over the boat. Everyone was drenched.
Peter shouted, “Get that sail down” – though he used much more colorful language. The vessel was in danger of capsizing. They broke out the oars and aimed for the nearest shore. Those not rowing were bailing furiously. Unaccountably, Jesus continued to sleep despite the apostles now singing “Nearer My God to Thee” hymn. More unaccountably the apostles allowed Jesus to sleep. Finally, when their nerves broke, they angrily shook Him.
The still sleepy Christ stood. Wind was whipping through His hair. His beard and clothing were sticking to His lean body. One can understand why the nineteenth century Delacroix painted fourteen different versions of this miracle. Notice Jesus addresses the awesome sea as a person. “Quiet. Be still.” This ties in with the Jewish belief that the devil lived in the water. It was the devil who was churning up the lake. And so Jesus spoke to him directly.
The waves calm, calm, calm down! The apostles are stunned. Their Leader switched off the storm without any effort. The Jews believed that only God had power over storms and sea. Then He spoke to them with a rage, “Why were you so terrified? Where was your faith?” He had done such a good job of calming the wind the sail was useless. They had to use oars to get to the shore and some dry clothes. The tired Jesus went back to sleep on His wet pillow.
Mark wrote his Gospel toward the end of first century. The Church was already in big trouble. Emperors were persecuting the Church. The favorite outdoor sport of Romans was feeding Christians to lions. The apostles were either on the run or martyred. Jesus was off stage. Christians were cowering in the catacombs. There were heresies. Informers and scandals were everyplace. People lined up to abandon ship.
Mark is saying to early Christians, “We’ve been down this road before. If you think you got it bad, you should have been in the boat that night. Jesus in His own time will rise from sleep and say to our enemies: ‘Quiet. Be still.’ And the Church will move into the second century with all flags flying.”
Throw all this 1900 years into the early 21st century. Numbers of priests decline. Few young women join the convent. Catholics squabble among themselves. Many young are turned off. Ugly sexual scandals are about us. People jump over the side. Like the 5 year old who began this homily, we are saying, “We could use that chap Jesus right now.”
Mark is telling us through this story Christ will once again play Superman when He is ready. He will then ask us sharply, “Why are you so fearful? Where is your faith?” And the Church will flourish in the 21st century.
As the universal church begins the celebration “the year of the priest” I announce my departure from you, but I remain with you deeply in prayer – and the prayer go like this “Lord, the sea is so large and our boat is so small. Come quickly.”
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong