TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2021)
Readings:Job 38:1, 8-11Psalms 107:23-26, 28-312 Corinthians 5:14-17Mark 4:35-41
The abbreviated portion of Job’s discourse with God which forms our first reading does not do justice to the virtually sarcastic nature of God’s response. At the beginning of this section in Job, God does address Job “out of the storm,” telling Job to “brace himself like a man; [now] I will question you,” God declares, “and you shall answer me.”
God upbraided Job for trying to change God’s plans, “with words without knowledge.” God then embarks on a list of almost endless questions, showing that this is not a discussion among equals. The first reading’s mention of the sea is meant to support our gospel passage, but the questions begin by asking Job where he was at the dawn of creation; where was Job when the dimensions of our world were marked off. Who laid the world’s “cornerstone… while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” The questioning about all things earthly and heavenly goes on for many verses (38:1-39:30), punctuated by God’s sarcasm: “Surely you know [the answer], for you were already born! You have lived so many years.”
The first reading is barely a glimpse of the Book of Job’s contention that one shouldn’t argue about something they have no real knowledge of, and God’s plan for us, and for the world in which we live, is as mysterious as the very origin of the world. The responsorial psalm speaks of those “who sailed the sea in ships,” for they knew something of God’s “wonder in the abyss.” The ancient sailors knew that God “could raise up a storm wind,” “hush the storm to a gentle breeze,” and bring them home “to their desired haven.” They also knew that God could sink their ship “to the depths,” and He could rescue them “from their straits” of distress.
Our images to date from Mark have been agricultural, but Mark’s first nature miracle would not be unfamiliar to men who were largely fishermen. It is Jesus who desires to cross “to the other side” of the lake, a place unfamiliar and unknown. Jesus will often take His disciples, and us, to unchartered territory, where we can learn to do things we never thought were possible, like love your enemy.
In spite of their fishing experience, the disciples ran directly into a storm, a storm fierce enough to cause them to be traumatized with fear. Jesus’ lack of fear is obvious, since He is asleep in the bow of the boat, in need of being awakened by the disciples who brazenly ask: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Perhaps their fears are a little exaggerated, since the rising water or the wind was not enough to wake Jesus up, but it does give the evangelist Mark the opportunity to show Jesus as the answer to all of Job’s questions. Jesus doesn’t rebuke the disciples for waking Him up. Instead, with great authority, He rebukes the “wind,” and tells the sea, “Quiet! Be still!,” and “the wind ceased and there was great calm.” In this early chapter of Mark, Jesus is making Himself known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job! The disciples, and no doubt those in the “other boats” that accompanied them, “were filled with great awe,” for only a God can get the “wind and the sea” to obey Him.
Upon waking, it is Jesus’ question to the disciples [and us] that is most important: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” No answer is given, but the answer is probably no. The disciples have much more to learn, and Jesus will take them to unchartered territory, where Jews can be civil to Samaritans, where tax collectors and they can sit together for a meal, where lepers can be cleansed and not feared, where sinners can be welcomed and not shunned. Jesus can also take us, in this worldly sea that can often cause us to fear, to places we never thought were possible – a world where this is no war, a world without hatred and strife, a world where no one goes to bed hungry, a world where borders are meant to be crossed and not made impenetrable, a world where strangers are welcomed and not feared. The God we call Savior and Lord, the God who was present at the dawn of creation, can take us to so many places we never thought were possible, if we can only possess the faith that overcomes all terror and fear of the unknown.