Saturday, June 20, 2015

Faith as Confident Assurance

 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – 21 June 2015
St. Mary’s Parish in Salem, S.D.

Job 38: 1, 8-11
Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting.
2 Corinthians 5: 14-17
A great prophet has risen in our midst, God has visited his people.
Mark 4: 35-41

Let me start by wishing all of the fathers here present a happy Father’s Day. We pray for you and we also remember in prayer and petition all our fathers who now sleep in the peace of Christ in expectation of the glorious day of Resurrection.

Father’s Day fits rather well with the readings assigned for this 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. God-given and God-willed fatherhood, within the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, is a blessing upon the human race which comes to us from the Creator of all that is. God Almighty orders the universe and, just like Jesus on the Sea of Galilee, He calms the storms which toss us to and fro. All fatherhood comes from God and in turn reminds us of our Heavenly Maker. Dad might not always be fully in control within the family, but all imperfections and weaknesses taken into account, he still reminds us of God, the Father of all.

In my childhood, however, I always had the impression that Mother’s Day was easier to celebrate. Our family budget was very tight in those years and so Mom received a rational gift, the same gift practically every year, which was often given on account for later in the month of May, when the danger of frost had come to an end. We gave her the bedding plants which decorated the planter in front of the house and I think the best part about the gift for her was the trip to the greenhouse; she got to choose and shop around while she was there! With that same Mother’s Day logic, I suppose we should have found some annual home or yard improvement gift for Father’s Day, but at least in our family it never came to be; maybe that is why Dad’s Day never developed that same annual rhythm or naturalness.

In the first reading today, God speaks to Job and reminds this holy man, hard pressed and suffering as he was, reminds him of just Who is boss in this world, Who created everything, established the world and keeps the universe in order. The Book of Job is a profound and beautiful story; we bow to its teaching, but it would be hard to see just how it touches our lives. Do we really depend upon God for our needs? Do we really place our lives in His hands?

With that we still have not come to the primary question posed by the Book of Job, about why an all-powerful God would allow suffering in the life of a just man, like Job, who should be enjoying God’s favor and not sickness or hardship. To some extent that question is not even brought up in our secularized world; to some extent we have written God out of the scene; He doesn’t really come to mind. As much truth as there may be to that, I do not think that we are all that different from people of any day, any place or any time. Look at the disciples in our Gospel passage from St. Mark: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” The disciples are taken completely by surprise: these men who have chosen to follow Him, who are constantly in His company, and yet until He calmed the storm it really had not yet dawned upon them just Who Jesus is. He is God. “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Granted, we are not commercial fishermen and for the most part our issues in life, our real fears and frustrations have little to do with the wind and the waves. In a sense, though, it doesn’t really matter what terrifies us, but rather why it is that we lack confidence in the power of God to save, why we are of such little faith. Granted that we do our best in life for both work and family, we do our part to row that boat; the challenge seems to be not to forget that it is God Who rules over all things. The test or the challenge seems to be in explaining how we do or don’t expect Him to save us from persecution and harm at the hands of our enemies, to save us from so many kinds of misfortune which descend upon us through no fault of our own (think of companies which go under and throw their workers out on the street in search of a new job!).

“Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” Much of life seems wild and untamed in the awful sense of the word. That’s probably why motivational speakers make such a good living; they capitalize on people’s fears and dreams; we in turn forget the basic wisdom of any number of nursery rhymes which dismiss the power of positive thinking as so much humbug. “If wishes were horses beggars would ride.” Only God in His perfection wills things into being; we, His creatures, have to work, toil even, to eke out a living.

Where then does God’s will for us come in? Ultimately it is a matter of our happiness with Him forever in Heaven. In Jesus’ parable about the poor man Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus has Abraham explain Lazarus’ eternal reward as consolation and comfort for all he suffered in this life and the condemnation of the rich man and his like, who partied their lives away and did not in charity come to Lazarus’ aid. We don’t necessarily have to see God’s love in this life manifest in prosperity or creature comforts; as we suffer, Jesus can seem to be asleep, having left us in peril of the winds and the waves. We need to keep rowing and praying for His deliverance.

What is the secret to happiness? Must the just suffer in this world? We are taught that Jesus revealed Himself glorious to Peter, James and John in His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. He shone forth there in conversation with Moses and Elijah to signify that in the Person of Christ both the Law and the Prophets reached their fulfillment. This was supposed to convince them of God’s power to save and to keep them from succumbing to the scandal of His horrible death and suffering upon the Cross. It doesn’t seem to have worked, as in their terror and loss they ran away even so.

Your challenge and mine would seem to be to do better than Jesus’ disciples, to be unto ourselves as God is to us. While understanding our weakness and our slowness to comprehend His plan for our consolation and joy, we need to chide ourselves in tough times, as He did the disciples before calming the wind and the waves. “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

We cannot expect everyone to understand, but still we give witness to the reason for our hope which is centered in Christ Jesus. Others may even despair of life and its hardships, but in faith we confess the One “…whom even wind and sea obey”.  

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