Homily delivered on the Feast of St Joseph for Gayndah community.

Year B 2021

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bringing Order out of Chaos

Rebuking the wind and calming the sea is the action of a god. From time immemorial, the human race has stood in awe, wonder and fear of the wind and the sea. These were powers over which they had no control. Sacrifices were offered to these gods in the hope that the people would not be destroyed when their full fury was unleashed. The sea, in particular, spoke to the people of chaos and the absence of order. In the creation stories of the Hebrews, God, with a word, brings order out of the primeval chaos fixing boundaries for the sea and allowing land to appear for habitation and the growing of crops and tending herds.

It is thought that the gospel of Mark was written for a Gentile audience in the late 60’s when there was a great persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero. We do well to appreciate the context as Mark, like the other evangelists, wanted people to know the Christ who lived and died and rose again and that events in the life of the disciples had powerful messages for them. Mark’s selection of this action of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee was a proclamation of the presence of Jesus being good news for them in Rome being persecuted, the personal and communal chaos created by Nero, as well as the original setting.

Jesus calming the gale and the rough sea is the only account of his acting in this way in the gospels. We and the early disciples saw him heal people and even raise the dead to life, but not exercise his authority over the forces of nature in this spectacular way (I have not forgotten his walking on water but remember there he does not speak to the sea as he does here).

Mark in recounting the story, reminds the others in his community that Jesus had this divine power and authority. Their community was still in its infancy, only 20 or 30 years old. They needed to hear what Jesus did because the savage torture and killing Nero unleashed on them threatened to throw them into chaos. They could begin to wonder what their Risen Lord was doing. Was he asleep and uncaring while they were in danger of being swamped (the boat is often an image of the church)?

The words Christ spoke to his disciples with him in the boat were words for the community in Rome and for every community of believers ever since. Jesus goes to the heart of the turmoil that they have allowed into their minds and hearts. Faith in Him and the Father who is more powerful than any force of nature (as God reminded Job in the first reading) dispels fear and fright. Time and again the disciples have seen Jesus care for them and attend to their needs. He was anything but asleep and uncaring.

Circumstances can make us feel frightened and fearful. We need these feelings because they are warnings that we are at risk.  But, having recognised the danger, then we decide on our response. Taking our cue from the disciples, we call to the Lord who seems to be asleep because we know He is the one who can rescue us. His caring response is to bring us to safety by calming the chaotic sea, the buffeting winds or perhaps to move us to a place of safety in some other way without doing anything as spectacular as this.

Fr Adrian