Year B – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year B - 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Surviving the Storm

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

Many people love the sea; they’re fascinated by its colour, its power and its life, while others fear it. They’re scared of its sharks, shipwrecks and unstable nature. 

In Biblical times, people found the sea frightening. They thought it was dangerous and believed that only God can tame it. Indeed, God does tame it in Genesis 1:6-10.

In Exodus, God also divides the Red Sea (14:21-22). And in Revelation, we’re told there will be ‘no more sea’ when God’s peace finally descends on a ‘new earth and new heaven’ (Rev.21:1).

This is the background to Mark’s Gospel today. Jesus is tired, having taught and healed all day in Galilee. As He takes His disciples across the Sea of Galilee to the land of the Gentiles, a storm erupts. Big waves lash their little boat, and the men are terrified. They turn to Jesus and find Him asleep: ‘Master, don’t you care?’ they ask.

Jesus wakes up and replies, ‘Why are you so frightened? Why do you have no faith?’ He then calms the storm.

Year B - 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time 1

We all face storms in our lives. Sometimes it’s merely bad weather; and sometimes it’s personal storms, like financial, health or relationship troubles, or the turmoil of anxiety and depression.

For many people, this is the only time they turn to God. The rest of the time they ignore Him. However, there’s a problem with this approach, for if we don’t connect with God when all is calm, we’re unlikely to find Him when we’re in trouble. We’re much more likely to panic.

Many people today also think that if God truly is with them, if He genuinely cares about them, then there’d be no storms at all. And if a storm does arrive, they think that simply proves that God either isn’t there or He just doesn’t love them.

Today’s Gospel tells us that this thinking is wrong, for Jesus is present when the storm hits His disciples. Indeed, His presence doesn’t stop the storm; it just helps the disciples to know that He’s in it with them.

We know that difficulties are a natural part of life. Even Jesus’ life was never trouble-free, and He warns us that anyone following Him can expect to face ‘tribulation, distress and suffering’ (Jn.16.33).

But He also promises to help us. ‘I will not leave you as orphans,’ Jesus says, ‘I will come to you’ (Jn.14:18).

In Deuteronomy, too, we read: ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified … for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you’ (31:6).

So, we remember that God is always with us. But what else can we do to weather these unpleasant storms?

In his book Captured Fire, Joseph Krempa says that today’s readings offer us some useful guidelines.

Our first reading from the Book of Job, for example, reminds us that all storms have limits; they always pass, however intense they may be. The Lord knows the limits of our tolerance, Krempa says. Any storm, the Lord says as in Job, ‘thus far shall you come and no further.’

And as we wait out the storm, Krempa tells us that it’s important that we keep praying. And even if our prayer sometimes seems ineffective, we need to keep our hand on the tiller because our prayer life will give us the stability we need in any turbulence.

Krempa also says that during a storm is not the time to change direction. We should not make any serious life-changing decisions during times of deep anxiety or loss, he says. The storm is not the time to make a major career change, to write a difficult letter or to rearrange our finances. Such changes can be made when calm returns and we can think clearly.

And finally, he points out that in our second reading, St Paul encourages us to see things through the eyes of Christ, for storms have great power to transform the landscape. Through the storms of life, things might seem to be breaking apart, but through the eyes of faith we can see that they are actually breaking open, that things are changing for the better.

For personal tragedy can lead us to a new life with God; physical loss can be a moment of spiritual gain, and illness can lead to spiritual renewal. [i]

Being buffeted by the storms of life isn’t pleasant, but remember this: you are never alone. God is always with you, even if you think He’s sleeping.

So keep up your prayers, and be aware that storms can not only bring us closer to God, they also often create pathways to something new.

[i] S Joseph Krempa, Captured Fire Cycle B, St Paul’s, New York. 2016:106-107.