Sunday Sermon for June 20, 2021, the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41
In the Gospel reading today we see the Apostles panicking because the wind was so strong and the sea so stirred up that their boat was being swamped by the waves. Throughout this whole ordeal Jesus was sleeping in the stern. Upon waking Him, the Apostles ask if He does not care that they are perishing. This is quite strange for two reasons. First, Jesus was with them. Did they somehow think they would perish but He would not? Second, as St. Therese asked, did they really think their boat was going to sink with Jesus in it?
The question our Lord posed to the Apostles after He calmed the wind and the sea captures their problem perfectly: “Do you not yet have faith?” One cannot entirely fault the Apostles because they were still questioning who Jesus was. It would be very difficult to believe that this man with whom you have been travelling with for the past number of months is actually God Incarnate. Our Lord had given them plenty of “proofs” by this time, but embracing this truth would still be difficult.
Even more difficult, however, is the challenge of getting what they believed about Jesus from their heads to their hearts. We all know Jesus is God, but how many people do you know who actually live their lives according to this truth? Like many of us, they know the truth in their heads, but it has not gotten into their hearts. They believe, but their lives have not yet changed completely.
This is the point St. Paul makes in the second reading. He says, “We have come to the conviction that One died for all; therefore, all have died.” Many people have died for their country or their homeland, and we can hold them up as heroes. However, we would not say that since this person died for us, therefore we will die to self and live for him. We can imitate his example and rally around that example, but we would not look at this person as the savior of our souls. Even if there was a specific situation in which someone died to save our life, we would want to honor that person, but we would not say they saved our souls and opened the way for us to eternal life.
Jesus is the only One we can say these things about. He died for us to give us eternal life; we should be living for Him. He is Lord of both the living and the dead. He is the One before Whom we will stand on the day of judgment. As we have seen, Jesus asked His Apostles if they still had no faith. It seems apparent from the question that He expected them to believe in Him. If that was the case with regard to the Apostles who lived with Jesus and saw His works, what would our Lord ask us who have heard the accounts of the Apostles and are the recipients of 2000 years’ worth of Church teaching?
Do we not yet have faith? In the first reading God speaks to Job about how He created the sea, set limits for the sea, and stilled the waves of the sea within those limits. In the Gospel our Lord calms the wind and the waves; the Apostles wonder Who He is that even the wind and the waves obey Him. St. Paul, in the second reading, says even if at one time we knew Christ according to the flesh, we do so no longer. It is true that Jesus possesses a true human nature: Body, Blood, and Soul. But He is not a human person, He is a divine Person. We must never lose sight of His humanity, but we must always recognize Him as God.
However, we must not think of Jesus as being separated from us. No, if we are in the state of grace, He dwells within us in the fullness of His being. Most of the time we are unaware of His presence because He is not doing anything that would call attention to Himself. Perhaps one could say He is sleeping in our boat.
This point is of critical importance to us because at times there will be wind and waves in all our lives. Sometimes the waves will be very high and seemingly swamp our little boat. All too often, when this happens, we become terrified, like the Apostles were terrified that night in the boat. If they had faith and trusted in the Lord, they could have remained at peace knowing all would be well because Jesus was with them, right in their boat. Live your life for Jesus, be at peace, have faith, trust. Your boat will not sink: Jesus is in it!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.