For the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2021 Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM offers a Scriptural Reflection. This content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection June 20 2021 . Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Po_vodam.jpg#/media/Bestand:Po_vodam.jpg ; File:Backhuysen, Ludolf – Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee – 1695.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Probably most people will hear this gospel as a miracle story. But it can also be thought of in terms of a healing or an exorcism. Instead of Jesus releasing a person from the evil of sickness or a demon, here Jesus takes control of the overwhelming power of a violent sea to restore peace. Those for whom Mark was writing would have understood this story as a kind of demonstration of Jesus’ power to control the chaos in the natural world.
The apostles are significant in this text. From their youth, boys of Jesus’ time were trained to face danger bravely. Any expression of fear, especially in public, brought shame upon oneself and one’s family. The apostles must have been in a dire, life-threatening situation to have abandoned their composure and turned to Jesus for help. Jesus is portrayed as being in total control. He confronts the dangerous power of nature. In the face of fear, he understands the lack of power of the disciples. It is at the heart of the text for Mark’s community. “Why are you terrified? Do you not have faith?” Their faith should give the disciples the ability to face fear and to act, trusting in the power of God to confront evil. The question that the disciples ask is also revealing. “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?” The question may not be so much about Jesus but about our ability to trust in Jesus as we face the challenges of our life! The text also reveals how God in the person of Jesus responds when our faith does not seem strong enough in a given situation.
- What is your experience of stormy seas?
- How is the image of being cast about on a boat in a stormy sea a good image for the times when you have felt powerless or in danger for your life?
- Have you ever felt like the powers of chaos were more powerful than peace and order?
- What stories of God bringing order out of chaos might the early disciples have remembered as this gospel text is being told?
- At the beginning of the text, the disciples are portrayed first as trying to care for Jesus who wants to get away from the crowds that have been following him, then they are in desperate need of Jesus’ intervention, and finally they are being challenged to act and live in faith. Do any of these moments resonate with you and your relationship to the Body of Christ?
- Mark says the disciples took him on the boat just as he was. What does that phrase “just as he was” suggest to you? Why do you think Mark has included it in the text?
- The gospel text ends with the question: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” How do you answer this question?
- Can you take some time to talk to God about the chaos that you experience, or your own awareness of your own lack of faith? Try to talk honestly to God who was present to these disciples “just as he was.”