FIRST IMPRESSIONS

12th SUNDAY (B) June 20, 2021

Job: 38: 1-4, 8-11; Psalm 107; 2 Cor. 5: 14-17; Mark 4: 35-41

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

The first brief reading from Job blends with our gospel. Job was a faithful man who felt blessed by God because he had great fortune – family, land, crops and livestock. When tragedy came on him and everything was taken away, his friends tried to "comfort" him. But at the same time they urged him to accept the blame for the evils that befell him and caused his tragedy. That is what they understood were God’s ways: if evil happens to a person it be because they sinned. So, Job’s friends urged him to repent. But he had nothing to repent from and asked so the the big question: How could God let all this evil happen to him, an innocent man?

Like the storms the disciples experienced in today’s gospel, Job cries out to God from his turmoil. He demands God justify the tragedy that had happened to him, "Let the Almighty answer me!" (31:35) God finally replied to Job’s anguish; but does not resolve the accusation of injustice Job makes against God. God does not present an argument of self-defense for what happened to Job instead, addresses a revelation, "out of the storm." To put it succinctly: God is the Creator and Job is not.

It is the heart of Jewish faith – God alone is God. Like us, when bad things happen, Job does not receive an answer to his protest. But God assures him that God is in charge; Job does not have to face his trials alone. Here is an echo of Psalm 46:11, "Be still and know that I am God… The Lord of hosts is with us, our stronghold is the God of Jacob." The plight of Job in the midst of his storm parallels what happened during the storm to the disciples in the boat while Jesus slept and the question they put to him, "Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?"

There are questions raised by the storms in our lives and the answers we sometimes give are as limp as those given by Job’s friends to his tragedies. When our faith is threatened we might present and demand justification from God. There are no quick answers to why bad things happen to us. But we struggle to believe what Job learned: God alone is our God and is with us, as Jesus was with his disciples in the boat that night in the storm.

Mark’s original audience was a community undergoing persecution. Their leaders had been martyred and, like the frightened disciples in the boat with a sleeping Jesus, they also questioned what was happening to them. The church was undergoing internal strife as well as they struggled to combine Jews and Gentiles into their new Christian community. Mark’s church was hardly sailing calm waters – not unlike our church today. Jesus’ previous parables of bread, sowing, growth and harvest showed God’s control over the land. Today’s passage shows divine control over the water, Jesus participating in God’s authority over chaos.

Mark’s beginning has the feel of the Genesis creation account, where God’s first word was addressed to the darkness, "Let there be light." Mark set up the story for us: it’s getting dark and they are about to "cross to the other side." After Jesus had healed and preached in parables he suggests his disciples cross to, of all places, foreign territory. Does his request hint at the future mission of the church to go outside our comfort zone and possibly face opposition and even’s stormy seas in places and among people who are different, even opposed to us?

When Jesus calms the seas he uses the strong language of exorcism. He "rebuked the wind and there was calm." Jesus, with us in our "boat," has the power to speak a word of calm that can help us overcome the daily turbulent winds and so evoke trust in us. When these manifestations of his power occur in our lives, like the disciples, we feel "great awe." So, for the times the Lord has strengthened, calmed and given us courage to face the stormy seas, we give praise and thanks at this Eucharist.

In today’s gospel Jesus has asked the disciples to go with him "to the other side." I hear in that phrase that something is about to happen. It’s not just a change of physical place that they are about to experience. They are going with him to a foreign place, leaving their accustomed lives, crossing over the water to the unfamiliar. The church cannot play it safe, especially when there are storms around it. In the Bible turbulent waters is a symbol for chaos and the unruly. Remember how Genesis began: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland and darkness covered the abyss." In the beginning there was chaos and disorder, waiting for God to speak a word, "Let there be light." The story of the calming of the waters shows Jesus participating in God’s power over the darkness and the chaotic’

I’m thinking about the darkness that surrounds us, the church and the whole world these days. Will we "cross to the other side"? When will we rid ourselves of this deadly virus? Will the violence happening in Israel "cross over" to peace? Will we "cross over" to racial equality in our country? Give shelter and welcome to immigrants? What about our faith, will it sustain us and even grow, when we receive Jesus’ powerful words in our storms? We join our prayers with those of our Jewish ancestors today as we cry out, "Save me O God, for the waters have come up to my neck." (Psalm 69:1)

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/062021.cfm