Year B – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On Waiting

(Wis.1:13-15, 2:23-24; 2Cor.8:7, 9, 13-15; Mk.5:21-43)

In our society, we have fast food, fast shipping and high-speed internet. Clearly, many people don’t like waiting.

Houston Airport used to get lots of complaints about long wait times at their baggage carousel. They couldn’t speed up the baggage delivery, however, so they simply moved the arrival gates. Now people walk six times longer, but the complaints have dropped to almost zero. [i]

In Mark’s Gospel today, Jairus can’t wait; his daughter is dying. So, when Jesus arrives, Jairus begs him to save her. Jesus agrees to help, and starts walking towards Jairus’ home. But on the way he’s distracted by a woman who also needs help, and in the meantime Jairus’ daughter dies.

Now, why didn’t Jesus heal that child immediately? He healed the Centurion’s servant instantly in Capernaum (Mt.8:5-13), so why did Jairus have to wait? 

Perhaps Jesus wanted to spend time with him. Perhaps he wanted to encourage Jairus’ humility and patience. Perhaps he wanted Jairus to learn to trust him.

In any case, when Jesus arrives at Jairus’ home, he holds the dead girl’s hand and says, ‘Little girl, arise!’ And she does! This miracle reminds us that Jesus really is ‘the resurrection and the life’ (Jn.11:25). 

But the woman who asks Jesus for help also had to wait. She had waited 12 years for a cure for her ailment, and now Jesus is her last hope. She desperately touches his cloak and instantly she’s healed. ‘Your faith has saved you,’ Jesus says. [ii] 

So how do these stories touch our own lives?

In her novel The Underpainter, Jane Urquhard says there are two kinds of waiting: there’s the waiting that consumes our minds, and the waiting that happens just below the surface of our awareness. We might not know it, she says, but in one way or another we’re always waiting. [iii]

We wait for nine months to be born, we wait for our buds to bloom, for our child to grow, for the taxi to arrive and for the lights to change.

But most of us aren’t good at waiting, and that’s why so much of today’s technology aims to make life easier and faster, to give us more control.  The problem, however, is that this just gives us a sense of entitlement and pride.

And it can encourage our impatience.

This isn’t what God wants for us (Ps.37:34). Some of the greatest Biblical figures, including Abraham, Joseph, Moses and David, all waited for years for God’s promises to come through. And as they waited, God shaped and moulded them so that when their time came, they were blessed beyond measure (2Cor.4:16-18).

The Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh says that when we see a flower, and take the time to look deeply into it, we’ll see not only its shape and colour, but also the sunshine, the rain and the soil that are part of that flower and part of ourselves as well.

We can practice this deep reflection whenever we find ourselves waiting, he says. While we’re stuck in traffic, we can become aware of the clouds. When we have our morning coffee, we can savour its aroma and feel the warmth and weight of the mug.

In these quiet moments, the urge to do and to be somewhere else, subsides. Our breath, our heartbeat slows down, and the waiting becomes our friend.

In his book Balaam’s Donkey, the Cistercian monk Michael Casey reminds us that some things take time to develop. Rome was not built in a day, he says, and any worthwhile art or craft takes years to master. It can take years – even decades – before our spiritual life begins to develop the way we’d like it to.

God’s work in us proceeds at its own pace, Casey says. It has to work on several levels simultaneously, and the transformation it seeks to accomplish is so radical that there are many other issues that must be faced before it can flower. [iv]

Waiting, then, can be good for us. It gives us time to rest, reflect and learn. And it teaches us trust and endurance – and gratitude when things work out.

Now, have you noticed that God sometimes sends encouraging signs while we’re waiting for our prayers to be answered?  That’s what happens to Jairus. 

While he’s walking with Jesus, Jairus sees Jesus healing someone else. That gives him hope and it strengthens his faith.  

Such signs are a gift. May we, too, see the signs God sends us when we next find ourselves waiting.


[ii] This is the only miracle in the Gospels where Jesus doesn’t initiate the cure.

[iii] Jane Urquhard, The Underpainter, McClelland & Steward, Toronto, 1997:95.

[iv] Michael Casey, Balaam’s Donkey. Liturgical Press, Collegeville. 2019:447.

Year B – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On Rembrandt’s Storm-Tossed Sea

[Job 38:1, 8-11; 2Cor.5:14-17; Mk.4:35-41]

‘The bad time comes,’ wrote Doris Lessing, ‘and we don’t know why.’

On the Sea of Galilee, the bad time comes when the cool air from the mountains rushes down towards the warm sea air, creating violent storms.

In Mark’s Gospel today, Jesus is tired at the end of another long day of teaching, and he says to his disciples, ‘Let’s go to the other side of the lake’. The sea is calm as they board their boats, but soon they’re battling a tremendous storm.

In 1633, Rembrandt painted a picture of this scene. It’s his only seascape, and it’s called Storm on the Sea of Galilee. It shows Jesus and his twelve disciples in one boat, as a large wave smashes into their bow, tearing a sail. [i]

If you look carefully, you’ll see that there are actually fourteen people on board. Rembrandt has included himself: he’s the man holding his cap and facing us, the viewers.

‘Lectio Divina’ is the prayerful process whereby a person places himself inside a biblical narrative in order to reflect on what God might be saying to him. [ii] Here, Rembrandt is inviting us to do the same. He’s inviting us to insert ourselves into this scene, and to reflect on the storms we experience in our own lives.

Now, look at the rear of the boat: there’s a light shining on the figure of Jesus, and on those focussed on him. The message here is that even in the midst of a storm, the light of Christ will help you to stay calm. But you must keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

In contrast, look at the disciples hidden in the shadows. They are only aware of their own anxiety and fear, and one is even vomiting overboard. Might they represent us in our own turbulent lives?

There’s also a third group of disciples. They are the figures nearest the mast, who are struggling to keep the boat afloat. In the midst of them is Peter, with his back turned to the light of the sky. That light indicates that the storm is about to break.

In this pose, Peter represents us when all we can see is darkness and misery, instead of the wonderful light that God is constantly shining on us.


So, here’s the question: are you battling a storm in your own life? Perhaps you’re struggling with some physical, emotional or financial distress. Which character, then, might you identify with in this painting?

William Barclay says that Jesus’ calming of the sea is a great miracle, but we should be looking at it symbolically, to see what we can learn from it.

To voyage with Jesus, he says, is to voyage in peace, even in a storm. Why? It’s because once the disciples understood that Jesus really was with them, they started to feel calm and the storm subsided.

This isn’t something that only happened once, Barclay says. It’s something that’s still happening today, and it can happen for us, too, if we have faith. [iii]

Mark’s Gospel today reminds us that whatever storms we face, Jesus is always with us. It might seem like he’s asleep, but we can be sure that he’s firmly in control.

So, our faith must be strong.

Sure, our faith won’t guarantee smooth sailing – even Jesus had to weather storms. But having faith means understanding who God is and knowing that he truly loves us. It means accepting that God is always looking after us.

And it means that in the presence of Jesus, I can have peace deep in my heart, even in the middle of a storm.

A retired sea captain used to take day-trippers to the Shetland Islands, north of Scotland. On one trip the boat was full of young people. They laughed when they saw the old captain say a prayer before setting out, because the day was fine and the sea was calm.

However, they weren’t long out at sea when a storm suddenly blew up. The terrified passengers came to the captain and asked him to join them in prayer. But he replied, ‘I say my prayers when it’s calm. When it’s rough, I attend to my ship.’

Here’s the point: If we don’t seek God in the quiet moments of our lives, we’re not likely to find him when trouble strikes. We’re more likely to panic.

But if we’ve learnt to seek God and to trust him in our quiet moments, then we can be sure we’ll find him when the going gets rough. [iv]

[i] This painting was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. It’s still missing. The Netflix documentary This is a Robbery tells the story of this theft.

[ii] Lectio Divina is the process of reflecting on the words of a biblical passage. Visio Divina uses a picture rather than words.

[iii] William Barclay, The Gospel of Mark, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.2001:133-134.

[iv] Flor McCarthy, New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies, Year B. Dominican Publications, Dublin. 2017:239-240.

Year B – 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On Slow-Motion Miracles

[Ezek.17:22-24; 2Cor.5:6-10; Mk.4:26-34]

One of the wonders of our world surely must be the humble seed.

With enough soil, sunlight, rain and time, tiny seeds can not only feed whole families; they can also split rocks, destroy buildings and even move mountains. It’s really quite miraculous.

When we think of miracles, we usually expect instant action. But most of the time that’s not what happens. Most miracles – like seeds – actually occur quite slowly.

Consider the story of Sally Wagter. In her book, Miracle in Slow Motion, she recounts her journey from despair to joy as she raised her severely autistic son, Tim. She refused to accept the bleak future his specialists had forecast for him. Instead, she decided to help him discover his potential.

That decision was a seed that took years to grow, but what she achieved was beyond her wildest dreams. Tim grew into a musically gifted, socially confident and academically capable young man. [i]

Such miracles take time.

Consider also the story of Frank O’Dea, born in Melbourne in 1928. He wanted to become a priest, but his chronic stammer made that impossible. So, he became a brother in the Blessed Sacrament Congregation, doing sacristy work, cleaning and cooking. But he never stopped wanting to become a priest.

One day, 20 years later, he found a book on relaxation. He followed the exercises and some years later his speech had improved so much that he was allowed to study for the priesthood. He was ordained at the age of 50, but it was only in his 80s that he was fully cured.

Frank O’Dea called this a miracle in slow motion. He died in 2020, aged 92. [ii]

In Mark’s Gospel today, Jesus gives us his famous Parable of the Mustard Seed, and makes the point that in God’s hands, even the smallest of beginnings can produce great results. But we need to be patient, because little seeds can take time to grow.

Sometimes when a miracle is needed, all we have to do is provide a small beginning and God will do the rest. It might be as small as a kind word, a good deed or a brave decision in the face of darkness. Each of these seeds can start something big.

In 1949, Mother Teresa went alone into the streets of Calcutta to help the sick and dying. She had no idea what lay ahead, but her work grew into a ministry of love so big that today some 5,000 sisters are serving in 134 countries.

In 1860, St Mary McKillop went to Penola, South Australia, to babysit her cousins. It was a simple task, but she found herself starting a school and a new religious order, and within 15 years she had opened 41 schools.

We see the same thing in our own lives. Perhaps it’s facing an addiction, forgiving a hurt, righting a wrong, or doing something else that’s long overdue.

Even the smallest beginning can result in a miraculous transformation. The changes might barely be perceptible, but with time the results become obvious.

We plant the seed, but God gives the growth (1Cor.3:6).

In his book Miracles, CS Lewis says that God always works his slow magic this way. Every year, he writes, God makes wine, and does so by creating a vine that can turn water, soil and sunlight into a juice that will, under proper conditions, become wine. Once, however, Jesus short circuited that long process by making wine in earthenware jars. [iii]

Yes, God can perform instant miracles, but most of the time he prefers doing things in slow-motion. This is the way of following Christ, learning to live, to love, to accept and to forgive. God wants us involved, but he’s always there behind us, helping quietly.

Let’s close with a story about a man who had a dream. He walked into a marketplace and saw a stall with a sign, ‘Gifts of God’. He stopped, astonished, and saw an angel at the counter. ‘What are you selling?’ he asked.

‘Every gift that God gives,’ the angel replied.

‘Are they expensive?’

‘No, the gifts of God are free.’

He looked at the shelves. There were jars of joy, bottles of patience, packets of wisdom. Then he saw the gift he wanted. ‘Please give me the gift of serenity,’ he said.

The angel placed it in a small gift box. It was tiny. Smaller than the man’s heart. He asked, ‘Are you sure the gift is in there?’

‘Oh, yes,’ replied the angel. ‘At God’s stall we don’t sell ripe fruit. Only seeds that you need to grow.’



[iii] CS Lewis, Miracles. Centenary Press, London. 1947:178.

Year B – Corpus Christi Sunday

On Food for the Journey

(Ex.24:3-8; Heb. 9:11-15; Mk.14:12-16, 22-26)

Food is such an important part of life. Many years ago, when our children were small, my wife and I bought a picnic basket. It held everything we needed to sustain us on a daytrip.

Picnicking, we found, was a wonderful way for our young family to connect, to enjoy each other’s company and to explore the world.

In every culture, food plays an important role. It underpins our health and well-being; children learn at mealtimes and social eating helps build relationships. That’s why we so often form friendships and do business over coffee or a meal.

We also become family by sharing a meal at a table.

The ancient Greeks used to give a meal to those who were about to start a journey. They called this custom the ephodion.

In Latin, they called this viaticus,[i] and the early Romans believed that a dying person’s last meal gave them strength to cross the River Styx, which separated the land of the living from the underworld. [ii]

Jesus understood all this. He knew that communities are formed around a table, and that breaking bread and sharing a cup help people to grow and connect. That’s why he gave us the Holy Eucharist, and said, ‘Take and eat. Take and drink. Do this in memory of me.’

Jesus had promised that he’d remain with us always, even to the end of the world (Mt.28:20). And the most effective way of doing this was through his greatest sacrament, the Eucharistic meal.

At the Last Supper, when Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover, they sat at a table in the Upper Room. Jesus took the bread and broke it, just as they broke his body on the Cross. Then he gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body. Take it and eat it, and remember that I’m with you, always.’

Then he took the cup filled with wine, blessed it and said, ‘Take this and drink it. This is my blood spilled for you on Calvary so that your sins may be forgiven.’

In the New Testament, the word body (soma in Greek) refers to the whole person, and not just to their flesh or physical body. And in Hebrew, there’s no specific word for body. A living being isn’t considered a person within a body; the body and the person are one and the same.

In other words, when Jesus offers us his body, he’s actually offering us his whole being, his very personhood.

Likewise, in Jewish thought, blood was believed to be the very life of a living being. So, when Jesus offers us his blood, he’s inviting us to ‘consume’ his very life. [iii]

When we receive the Eucharist, then, we are consumed with Jesus. He becomes part of us and we become alive in him. We are truly receiving Jesus’ actual being and life, and not just engaging in some symbolic re-enactment.

As well, keep in mind that in the Jewish culture, to remember is to make present that which is remembered. So, when Jesus says, ‘do this in memory of me,’ he means that he’s making himself present to us in a very real way.

Jesus often spoke about his Eucharistic presence. In John’s Gospel, for example, he says, ‘I’m the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world’ (Jn.6:51). 

And to St Augustine, Jesus once said: ‘Believe and eat me, and you’ll be changed into me’. [iv]

Richard Leonard says that when we receive the bread, blessed and broken, into our hands, and when we receive the cup, poured out and shared, we say ‘Amen’. By this word we agree to become just like Jesus himself: blessed, broken, poured out and shared in love with others. [v]

Our ‘Amen’ therefore means that we agree to go out into the world, to heal, to forgive and to help others, by doing just as Jesus did.

This isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve been given the Holy Eucharist. That’s why we need the Holy Eucharist. Every time we go to Communion, we draw from Jesus the strength we need to live as he taught us to (Jn.6:53).

The early Christians used to call the body and blood of Christ ‘Food for the Journey’. And in 325AD the Church recommended that Holy Communion be given to the dying as ‘food for the journey’ – Viaticum.

Today, we are fortunate that this remarkable gift is so often available to us, and not just at the end of our lives.

We all need it.

Our troubled world needs it, too.

[i] The Latin word viaticus means ‘of or pertaining to a road or journey’.


[iii] Dominic Grassi & Joe Paprocki, Living the Mass. Loyola Press, Chicago, 2011:148-149.

[iv] Cardinal Saliege, Spiritual Writings. St Pauls Publications, Bucks. 1966:57. 

[v] Richard Leonard, Preaching to the Converted. Paulist Press, New York. 2006:180-181.