Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 20, 2021
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Job 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41

Our first reading from the Book of Job presents a dialogue between Job and the Lord God in which the Lord conveys to Job that He, the Lord God, has power over the elements of the sea. The sea carries with it the symbolism of chaos and disorder that are randomly at odds with human beings. The Lord conveys to Job that He, the Lord, says to the chaos of the sea, “Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled.” In our Gospel, Jesus manifests His Divinity to His disciples by exercising such power over the sea. Yet, Jesus reveals more concerning the nature of the Father’s sovereignty over creation, a sovereignty that belongs also to Jesus as the Son of God.

Jesus’ invitation to cross to the other side of the sea results in more than just a geographical change from one place to another. The fishermen in the group of disciples were probably a little wary since the sky was dark, clouds were beginning to gather, and it was getting windy. Signs forecast bad weather and their experience cautions them not to venture out on the sea. But Jesus manifests calm and encourages confidence in them, so they embarked.

Even when the storm broke, as they had expected, they did not initially become alarmed since they saw Jesus peacefully asleep in the stern with His head on a cushion. But when the waves began to get violent, and the water began to splash in and fill the boat, fear overcame them. They woke Jesus up, shouting over the roar of wind and waves: “Master, don’t you care that we are going to drown?”

Jesus woke up, pushing Himself from the cushion, and felt the force of the storm. Standing up, He commanded the wind and sea: “Quiet, be still!” And all became quiet and still.  Then He said to His disciples: “Why are you so fearful?Where is your faith?” As they watched what happened, their sense of fear became one of awe or reverence, an emotion that differs from fear only in the character of its object. When we are confronted with something perceived as overwhelmingly threatening, we are fearful; when we are confronted with something powerfully good, we are in awe.

Jesus reveals that the Fatherhood of God is linked to His sovereignty as King, we come to love the King because He is not only powerful, but also perfectly loving and just. Jesus reveals that Divine power is not a matter of “might makes right” but rather of “might for right.” In revealing the Fatherhood of God, Jesus also reveals something essential to human fatherhood and the vocation of a man to be a husband and father. The vocation of a human father is not just to be an impregnator, just as the vocation of a mother is not just an incubator or a “birthing person” in the contemporary language of the activists. The nature of fatherhood is relational and involves the responsibilities and rights of the respectful and reciprocal vocation of marriage as a husband with his wife. By God’s design of human nature, marriage and fatherhood follow and develop upon each other. 

A man as a husband and father is not simply to exhibit power or aggressiveness over the family, as he would be prone to do because of original sin and were he fearfully to refuse the aid of God’s grace. Rather, a man as a husband and father is to provide protection and defense of the common good of the family against the storms of this world. As a father he is called to set a horizon for his children — the horizon of eternal life amidst the storms that come with growing up in such a hostile age of uncertainty and doubt. He fosters confidence in his children by his presence to them and by how he worships God reverently, obediently, and lovingly. He encourages them to do their part gratefully in response to God’s love.

Saint Mark ends this scene of his gospel with Jesus’ question to His disciples, but we must imagine that Jesus went back to His cushion to sleep and that the disciples had to row the rest of the way to the other side since the wind had died down. No doubt they were a little stunned and in awe over what had happened on the sea. Their understanding of the world had changed by what Christ had revealed, and they began to see things against the new horizon of eternal life and began to understand that Jesus was teaching them how to do their own part in His mission.

In the second reading, Saint Paul tells us what happened to them and what has happened to us because of our Baptism in Christ. “The old order has passed away, now all is new. Anyone in Christ is a new creation.” We are changed because of the love of Christ in revealing to us the face of the Father, but Saint Paul leaves out the cost of being made new. The cost is that we must do our part and weather some storms through the Holy Spirit’s grace of Faith, Hope, and Love. One way that we learn to do this is from the imperfect, but graced example and encouragement offered by our fathers in our family life.

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