We prepare for the liturgy this week which returns us to “Ordinary Time” by living through the storms and questions which storms provoke. We will pray for a greater respect for God and to be kept safe in God’s love. Life presents us with storms through which we struggle to find God’s care.
We can pray with our inner storms as well, whose waves ebb and flow through our minds and hearts. They can bring us to our knees, which can be a praying-place or a fleeing-place. However those waves beat upon us or beat us up, during the calm times, God will encourage us to keep faithful.
We hear in today’s First Reading from Job, the beginning of God’s defense and cross-examination. In the several chapters preceding the one from which we hear today, Job has been presenting his case and has argued, complained, whined about his being unjustly punished or treated poorly by God. His three friends have tried their best to assist his preparation for the court-appearance.
Job has lost everything - family, home, wealth - because of a kind of deal the devil has made with God. The devil has seen Job in a praiseful relationship with God, but the devil assures God that if Job were to lose everything, he - Job - would be singing a different song. Would Job stay faithful if all his worldly goods were taken away? God agrees to the testing of Job and poor Job does everything, but deny God; he does have many questions and frustrations.
God hears enough of Job’s “empty-headed”, but heart-felt protests. What we hear are the opening statements from God’s side which are meant to win Job to life and not defeat him to death.
God’s voice comes from out of a tempest which is a biblical symbol for God’s power. The basic line of God’s defense is that Job does not know much about what God has been doing since the foundation of the world. Where was Job when the sea, the mighty waters, were put in their places? Job’s arguments are like the waves which have their force, but will find stillness from their proud raging at the foot, the shore, of God’s designs. If one reads on through the remainder of the book, one would find comfort and judge God caring and faithful.
The Gospel is the last story of a parable-full chapter from Mark. Seeds falling on various types of ground, a lamp’s being lighted and put on a post, a little mustard seed’s growing into a tall bush: these are little indicators of what the “kingdom of God” is about. These parables are meant for those who can hear them and live them to be strengthened for the living.
Our Gospel pictures a boat with Jesus in the back sleeping and a huge storm’s arising. The “faithful” (or are they?) wake Jesus who calms the winds and waves and their fears. He then asks them about whether they have yet attained faith in Him.
The boatmen sigh in relief and wonder. Their verbalizing their awe is a statement of faith in which they see that Jesus is Lord of even the earth. They will see often that He has domination over evil spirits, the devil and sin itself. The community for which this Gospel is written is struggling to live the implications of Jesus’ teachings and His project of returning this world to the kingship of God. The waves which are rocking their boat are caused by their being faithful to what they believe.
From the early days of Jesus, He was causing waves. Because of Him, Mary and Joseph had to flee with Him into Egypt. Jesus made trouble with His hearers as He spoke of the new ways of relating with God and with life. He bothered the political leaders by confronting Roman authority. He was always asking His listeners to choose one way or another, putting them in conflict with themselves and with others, including family members.
Jesus once said that He came into this world to bring about division not satisfaction. Though this Gospel is centered on the conflict between believers and those opposed to believing, it is also a picture of our own divisions and or choices we make, because of our invitations to follow Him. Once we let Him in our personal boat, there are personal storms within ourselves, as we have seen with Job. Staying faithful to Him and His ways is an up and down, wave-like undulation. At times we delight in our being charitable, generous, forgiving, even suffering. At other times, the storm is resolved by our storming out of conflicts, resentfully retracting ourselves from assisting others, and or, jumping ship and swimming away from the whole situation.
Jesus did not shame or walk out of the boat and across the waters, shaking the spray off His feet in disgust. He seemed to them to be sleeping and inattentive to their struggles. He asked them simply about the source of their being terrified. The simple answer is that they were a human group fearful of losing everything, like Job, and especially their lives. This is healthy, this fearfulness and faith does not take away our human fears immediately. Prayer does not resolve our fears, but our fears can become our prayer. The storms do not abate when we fall on our knees or face or backside.
We wait often to see the calm, the dawn, the pot of gold, but we struggle to keep turning to Him in the company of believers. These are not like Job’s three friends who have it all figured out. Our companions are those who have experienced their own storms of faith and living that faith within the waves of fears and doubts. They are those who are remaining in the Boat and surrounding us at the Table of the Ship Captain.
“The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them food in due season.” Psalm 145: 15
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