|SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEAR B|
|By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp|
|Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - on the Gospel|
Sleeping in the Storm
|Job 38:1-11||2 Corinthians 5:14-17||Mark 4:35-41|
A certain school teacher is trying to get her class dramatize the story of the Stilling of the Storm. He explains to the kids how they should dramatize the roles of Jesus, the disciples, the wind and even the boat itself. Next he asks each child what part they would love to play. Naturally the kids were going for the more active and involved roles. The teacher was taken aback when he came to a small stammering girl at the back of the class who said, “I will like to be the pillow holding up the head of Jesus.” Why would anyone want to play such a passive role when others were competing for more active roles? But maybe it is this girl rather than the other kids in the class who grasps the real intent of the story. After all, it is the active and involved actors in the story that Jesus rebukes: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Many of us find it hard to understand why Jesus would rebuke the poor disciples trying to wake him up to help as their boat is sinking. Aren’t true disciples supposed to run to their master in their moment of need? Isn’t it a sign of their faith and trust in him that they call on him in their moment of crisis? Did Jesus himself not say, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)? Why then does he reprimand the weary disciples who are simply overwhelmed in the face of the storm?
To make meaning of Jesus’ rebuke we have to go back to the life situation of the early Christian community to which the Gospel of Mark was addressed. Mark’s community was a persecuted community, a frightened community, a community where many were required to pay with their very lives for associating themselves with Jesus. Mark’s church was like a boat sailing precariously through the stormy sea, in danger of being swamped by the waves. Yet, even though he had promised to be with his church, Jesus was not intervening to put an end to the crisis. Even though he had promised that the gates of hell would not prevail over his church, the fact is that the church was being decimated. How did the early Christians react to this crisis that threatened to swamp them like a storm? They resorted to prayer – a sort of prayer of protest to Jesus who looks on and does nothing while his people are dying? Is Jesus sleeping in the boat while Peter’s bark (an old name and symbol for the church) is sinking? Prayer was their means of waking him up.
The way the story ends with Jesus getting up and calming the rough sea is Mark’s way of saying to the church under persecution that by and by Jesus is going to hear their prayer to put an end to the crisis and restore peace. Their prayer, therefore, is not in vain. It is the normal course of action for disciples who are caught in a storm that threatens their very existence and that of the church – take it to the Lord in prayer. Yet Mark has something more to say to his persecuted fellow Christians. Intense crisis demands intense faith. What is expected of them in the face of life-threatening persecution is nothing short of heroic faith. Heroic faith in this situation is demonstrated by those disciples who are content to let Jesus sleep through the storm even if it means going down with him. This is the faith of the martyrs who, though they would love Jesus to deliver them, are nevertheless prepared to die with him if he so wishes. This is the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before the blazing furnace when they said to the evil king Nebuchadnezzar,
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set (Daniel 3:17-18).
It is easy enough to keep believing when at our least cry God would rouse himself and help us. The challenge today is to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to believe in the sun even when it isn’t shining, to believe in Jesus to the point where we can let him sleep in the boat even with ourselves as his pillow while the dreadful storm rages on.
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