The 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 20th June 2021
Lectionary Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; Ps 107:23-26, 28-31; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41
Theme: Life’s storms
Today’s Gospel speaks of a very well-known event in the life of Jesus and his disciples – the stilling of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. The emphasis of the exegesis of this story is usually on the end when all is well again, the storm calmed by Jesus and his disciples wondering in awe who he is, whom even the wind and the waves obey? (4: 41). And we as onlookers, familiar with the text are usually not very moved since we knew all along Jesus was there, along with his disciples in the boat, so of course, nothing bad could happen?
Let us take a step back and take a closer look at the story. Jesus is crossing the Sea of Galilee “to the other side” – leaving, with his disciples, the well-known territory of the mainly Jewish populated section of the Galilee for the area predominantly populated by Gentiles (cf. The Jewish Annotated New Testament, p.68-69). Thus, Jesus and his disciples are traveling to a new and unknown area both in the literal and figurative sense. The opening of Jesus’ mission is just about to unfold: he is not only sent to minister to the house of Israel but also to the Gentiles, the non-Jews on the other side of the lake. Jesus embodies the Jewish calling to bring the Torah, in its living form to the Nations.
The disciples, experienced fishermen and acquainted with the lake, are awake during the journey. But despite their experience, they are at a complete loss when the storm begins to rage. Jesus on the other hand is fast asleep and seems very comfortable. Mark tells us even the minute detail that he has a “cushion” (4:38). Jesus is asleep just like Jonah in the fish (also sent to preach to the Gentiles). But unlike Jonah, Jesus has authority over the storm (cf. The Jewish Annotated New Testament, p. 68).
On a figurative level, isn’t this a situation, we all know too well? We find ourselves or people who are dear to us caught up in the storms of life, asking for help, asking “where is our God”? Where is Jesus in this raging madness around us? Why is he so “laid back”? Why does he have to be woken up, can’t he see for himself that his people perish, doesn’t he care? Many authors of Biblical texts have asked this question and it is not by coincidence that today’s lectionary also proposes a reading from the book of Job. It is the passage where God finally answers Job out of a storm. But the “answer” is rather a statement. There is no explanation whatsoever as to why Job had to live through all his fear, agony, pain, and loss. God simply points out that he is the Creator of everything and in control; and as for “understanding” God’s ways, we only get a glimpse, if at all. Walking with God never means to be kept from stormy weather in a life without distress. And it certainly does not mean that believers have all the answers to life’s questions. However, Job and today’s Gospel reading can be an encouragement: never stop “bothering” God, even when life does not make any sense. Trust in him – even against all odds – believing that in the end (whenever that may be) all will be well.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Where have I been too quick to want to know all the “answers”? 2. Take time today contemplating the beauty of God’s magnificent nature, connecting anew with the Creator.
Bibliography: Levine, A-J.and Brettler, M.Z., The Jewish Annotated New Testament, Second Edition, Oxford University Press (Oxford/New York: 2017)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Barbara Kauffmann, Germany, Bat Kol Alumna 2010, 2011, 2012