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The 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 20, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 34:00)

    It might seem a bit strange on a warm day at the beginning of summer to be greeted with stories about storms – rather fierce storms, in fact - but that’s what the scriptures have given us today!

     In the first reading, God speaks to Job out of a great storm – Job, whose very name is a synonym for suffering, whose whole life had become a storm of suffering: unexplainable, undeserved suffering. The passage we got is quite truncated, to say the least. It omits Job’s part of the dialogue with God, but you know the story. From his misery, Job cries out to God “Where are you?” and God, in some of the most beautiful poetry in all the scriptures, comes back with "Where were you, Job?"

     "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth, when I shut in the sea with doors… when I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said…here shall your proud waves be stopped!'” Where were you? It might seem cruel for God to treat Job in this way but what God was really doing was inviting Job to deeper faith.

     God's challenging questions to Job echo down through the ages, don’t they? They find their way into our own agonizing struggles to believe when, at times, all the evidence seems to suggest that God is either not there or that God does not care. Sooner or later in our lives we have to come to terms with a God who is often more mystery than miracle. Sooner or later we have to come to terms with the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Job, the God of Jesus and Mary, the God of the storm-tossed disciples of Jesus, the God who asks more questions than he gives answers for and who has a way of leading us in paths we would never choose for ourselves.

     Today's Gospel story is one more instance of the way this God acts. The storm on the Sea of Galilee quickly convinces the apostles of Jesus that all is lost - that they are about to drown. They are frightened for their lives. And where is Jesus through all this? Comfortably asleep in the back of the boat. On a cushion, no less! If you had to paint a picture of how distant and detached and unconcerned God can seem at times, could you improve on that picture Mark paints of Jesus, fast asleep in the back of the boat, resting on a cushion?

     That is indeed the way God seems to us at times, isn't it?  Job has plenty of company when he flings his near-despairing cry at God, "Where are you?" Who doesn’t know that question, that cry of near despair? Parents who have lost a child know it, and so do children who have lost a parent. People who have lost everything in fire or flood, earthquake or hurricane, know it. Black people ask it as they remember Juneteenth and how its promise has yet to be realized. Poor people ask it, too – poor people who, as Pope Francis so powerfully reminds us, suffer more than anyone from the personal selfishness and corporate greed that devastate and degrade God’s creation. Job’s question, “Where are you, God?” and the disciples’ question, “Don’t you care?” are, at one time or another, everyone’s questions.

     But lest we think that we are alone in experiencing God as absent or distant - fast asleep in the back of the boat - we will do well to be reminded of how God seemed to sleep on yet another night - the darkest of all nights - during another storm when darkness covered the earth and Jesus cried out those agonizing words, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"  Those words from the lips of Jesus - no, from the depths of the agonized soul of Jesus - those words make the reproachful cry of the twelve in today's Gospel seem like child's play. "Teacher, doesn't it matter to you that we are going to drown?" pales alongside "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

     As always, Jesus leads the way. He asks nothing of us that he hasn't already asked of himself. After hearing his cry, how can we ever think that we are alone in our suffering? And, my friends, it goes even further than that. We know how God ultimately answered the cry of Jesus. We know that life had the last word then, not death and, deep down, we believe that it always does.

     My friends in Christ, Christ lives and, because of that, we, too, shall live! In the midst of all the storms of our lives, in the midst of the great struggles and storms of our troubled world, of our sadly divided Church and badly fractured nation, we still hold onto hope – onto our belief in the One who rebuked the wind and calmed the storm. With the awestruck disciples we find ourselves saying, “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Father Michael G. Ryan





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