Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Twelfth Sunday of the Year: 2015


Christ commanded the wind and there was a great calm. Like the disciples in the boat we are rightly troubled if we have forgotten him in whom you have believed. Our anguish becomes unbearable when all that Christ suffered for us remains far from our mind. If you don't think of Christ, he sleeps. Wake Christ; call on your faith. Christ sleeps in us if we have forgotten his Passion. But if we remember his Passion, then Christ awakes in us. When, with all our heart, we have reflected over what Christ suffered, won't we bear our trials steadfastly in our turn? And maybe with joy you will find yourself a little more like your King through your suffering. Yes indeed, when these thoughts start to comfort you and give you joy, then know that Christ has stood up and commanded the wind; from this comes to pass the calm within you. -- St. Augustine

Why are you afraid?

You might say that Jesus’ question to his disciples ‘why are you afraid’ is a bit silly. “I don’t know, Lord, maybe it’s the howling wind, the big waves, and the fact that we are about to sink and drown and by the way it was your idea to go out on a day like this, not ours, we know better.’  But the problem is not just the weather; the problem is the venue. To many ancient peoples the sea’s wild and formless power seemed like ungodly chaos. . The sea was the place of the absence of God. Or worse the place of malignant deities and spirits, unpredictable, dangerous, deadly, a place like hell which devours men, a place where even divine providence does not seem to extend its merciful presence.

In fact in the first reading this Sunday God shows Job that he has  channeled this seemingly overpowering force, that he has wrapped the waters as one would wrap a baby in a diaper, that he has locked up the menacing and raging waters ‘behind bars’.

But it is not just the raging sea which is put in its place; it is also human beings: we imagine that with the problem of evil, the reality of suffering in hand, we can put God on trial but what happens is we are put on trial:

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Who determined its measurements-- surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?  
Have the gates of death been revealed to you,
or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth?
Declare, if you know all this."

The answer to Job’s suffering is this: ‘mind your own business’  But if God can rule over the forces of nature that infinitely surpass human powers, he can certainly tame and direct human destinies as well.

In the Gospel it is this same omnipotent power and authority which is sleeping in the stern of the boat.  Happy Father’s Day because the sleep is not indifference, as the disciples allege, but the Son is resting in the care of the Father. The Father, who keeps watch over the life and mission of his Son, will not allow any natural power to overpower his Son. His ‘hour was not yet come’. Even when, at the insistence of his disciples, Jesus does command the storm to cease, ‘be still’ he does so not to show off his power, nor because he himself is afraid, but solely because of the disciples’ lack of faith. As will be the case in the Garden, it is they, not he, who are sleeping. “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

The tables will be turned just as they were with Job. “Simon, why are you sleeping? Could you not watch with me for one hour?’God watches. Man sleeps.

It is not simply that they lack faith in this miracle, but they will lack faith in a far greater miracle, when Jesus tames the chaos of our sin, by the Cross. “What sort of man is this?’” A man who commands wind and storm? Yes. But there is so much more: he destroys sin and death.

In the Epistle St. Paul takes full account of this complete faith. There is no sea but there is a storm. The Church at Corinth is being ravaged by disunity, disobedience, and discord. God watches. Man sleeps.  So they miss the ultimate marvel, the wonder which creates the Church, which animates it, sanctifies it, the ultimate truth which must guide the Christian in all times and in all places: Jesus ‘died  for all so that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sakes died and was raised up.’ This marvel does not simply return men to the safety of their old, mortal lives, as happened in the miracle of the storm on the lake. Rather, if ‘if they are in Christ,’ they are a ‘new creation’ in which the old has passed away and all is new.’ For the sake of their lack of faith Jesus calmed the storm on the lake – so that they might begin to put their trust in him. His death on the Cross calms a much worst storm and requires that all who believe, however haltingly, no longer ‘live for themselves.’ Why are we afraid? Could it be because we are asleep?

Why are you afraid?

With assistance from Fr. von Balthasar and Fr. Knox.

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