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Towards the other shore | Gospel of June 23

By 19 June, 2024No Comments
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Gospel according to Saint Mark 4,35-41:

One day when evening had come, Jesus said to them, «Let’s go across to the other side». So they left the crowd and took him away in the boat he had been sitting in, and other boats set out with him. Then a storm gathered and it began to blow a gale. The waves spilled over into the boat so that it was soon filled with water. And Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. They woke him up and said, «Master, don’t you care if we sink?». As Jesus awoke, he rebuked the wind and ordered the sea, «Quiet now! Be still!». The wind dropped and there was a great calm. Then Jesus said to them, «Why are you so frightened? Do you still have no faith?». But they were terrified and they said to one another, «Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him!».

Towards the other shore

Luis CASASUS President of the Idente Missionaries

Rome, June 23, 2024 | XII Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 38: 1.8-11; 2Cor 5: 14-17; Mk 4: 35-41

Storms like the one the Gospel speaks of today were not daily, but they were frequent. The Lake of Galilee was famous for its tempests. They came literally out of nowhere, with terrifying suddenness. One writer describes them thus:

It is not uncommon to see terrible squalls hurling themselves, even when the sky is perfectly clear, over these waters which are ordinarily so calm. The numerous ravines opening to the northeast and east over the upper part of the lake function as dangerous defiles in which the winds from the heights of Hauran, from the plateaus of Trachonitide and from the summit of Mount Hermon are caught and compressed in such a way that, rushing with tremendous force through a narrow space and being suddenly released, they agitate the little lake of Genesaret in the most frightful manner.

Many disturbing questions arise:

– Why did Jesus invite his disciples on such a journey if, being able to master it, he was also supposed to be able to foresee the storm? The journey was already a challenge, for they were going to a hostile land, the territory of the Gentiles.

– Why did the Master allow them to be subjected to such a test? And, even more importantly for us, why does he seem to have no role in so much suffering of mankind and why do so many people think that religious faith is – at the very least – irrelevant?

– In particular, why does he seem oblivious to the suffering of those fishermen, if he was physically in their midst?

This explains why there are so many people who, theoretically or practically, are deists, that is, who do not deny the existence of a creator God, but doubt that he has any intervention in our lives, much less in situations of distress.

This situation is not only present in well-meaning people who claim to have no personal experience of God. Many of us (all of us?) who proclaim ourselves followers of Jesus, or even publicly consecrated to Him, also experience moments in which we do not seem to believe or trust in the permanent divine intervention, in that Holy Spirit who works without ceasing and whose original name, as the Pope recalled a few days ago, is Ruach, that is, wind. A significant coincidence with the impetuous, unstoppable, overwhelming and indomitable character of today’s Gospel. This indomitable character also refers to the vanity of our efforts to fully understand it, to enclose it in definitions or concepts.

—ooOoo—

We know well, as Christ says today, that the opposite of faith is fear, and fear leads us to be aggressive, or to discouragement… or at least to a deplorable mediocrity. We can mention many types of difficulties, physical, moral or even intellectual, that we face with fear, although the most delicate are those concerning living together.

Misunderstandings arise very quickly in the storms of life. This is precisely what happens to the disciples, who in the midst of their anxiety, ask aggressively and abruptly: Master, do you not care that we perish?

When we feel beaten and threatened, we will hardly be attentive to be reflective and attentive listeners of others. This happened to the disciples that day, when – let us remember – they had to meet a “great multitude”, who hardly understood the Master’s words, which must have been exhausting for all of them.

But we can also learn to navigate and manage misunderstandings. If we practice attentive listening, if we ask open and honest questions instead of quickly hurling accusations, and if we trust that every human being’s desire for perfection is present, albeit wounded, even in those stormy hours, then we will all receive the grace to calm more than one storm. That is what Christ did not only with the waves, but with the disciples, inviting them to reflect and discern about their own state: Why are they so afraid? To them it seemed obvious, but the Master invites them to go beyond what their experience with the storms had taught them.

The case of Job, in the First Reading, is a perfect example of how to face misunderstandings and criticism. In the story of that man of God, we read in 37 Chapters how Job pleads for a divine response to his misfortune, after losing his family, his health and his fortune. His friends interpret the misfortunes that befall him as something deserved by him and his wife encourages him to curse God and commit suicide.

Benedict XVI recalled that St. Basil, in his book on the Holy Spirit, compares the situation of the Church after the Council of Nicea to a nighttime naval battle in which no one recognizes the other, but everyone fights against everyone. But he also recalled how, when a huge tree falls in the forest, it makes a great noise, and yet, when a whole forest grows, it grows quietly.

The truly faithful person may find himself, like Job, in the midst of great turmoil, but at the same time he makes himself an instrument for the divine presence to be evident to his neighbor. Let us remember how Yahweh manifests himself to Job’s unbelieving friends (Job 42: 8): My servant Job will intercede for you, I will heed him, and I will not treat you as your insolence deserves, because you have not spoken of me as you ought to speak, contrary to what my servant Job has done.

God’s silence should not be interpreted as his refusal to respond, nor does it indicate that he is disinterested in our affairs. Silence itself is a response. God, in His infinite wisdom, reveals Himself in both word and silence. Both serve His purpose. Both silence and revelation bring us to a point of decision, offering us a faith that goes beyond the superficial, a deeper relationship with God, a broader understanding of who He is. In his silence we come to discover that true joy and authentic peace are not the absence of pain, but the presence of God.

In accepting his silence, we humbly recognize that, in this life, God never fully reveals all the answers to our questions. Our understanding will always remain as if in twilight, between the full illumination of understanding and the darkness of complete ignorance. We may know enough to see, but not enough to comprehend its depth. He has given us enough for the next stage of our journey, and allows us to yearn for more. With that mystery, with that longing, there is a lesson to be learned, as Job and the disciples in the boat did. We must trust in the immediate step that God proposes to us. This will help us face what lies ahead.

—ooOoo—

But we should not limit ourselves today to thinking about our moments of difficulty, our storms. God does not make himself present simply by enlightening us to understand some things or by giving us a way out of some complicated situations (not all of them, far from it). God’s presence is particularly clear when we gather in his name; we must be attentive, because that is his decision and there can be the paradox of finding ourselves asking for his presence and, when He decides to manifest himself… we do not pay attention to Him. This is important, because it is not limited to my own personal peace, but to that peace of Christ that is transmitted to others through two forms of witness: how I live mercy and how I navigate through hardships, misunderstandings and opposition.

Historians have often discovered in castles and fortresses that they were built over deep springs that essentially protected the water supply, securing it in times of siege. A channel bringing in the water supply from the outside could be cut off or controlled by the enemy. But they could not shut off the inner spring. In Christ, He being within us, our hearts are wonderfully supplied with an eternal peace, not such as the world can give; that worldly peace depends on surrounding conditions, and in times of distress it is exhausted, but divine peace comes to us as an intimate personal spring.

In the times that seem happy and peaceful, when everything or almost everything seems to be going well and we feel in control of our lives, we cannot forget that we are on a journey, on a pilgrimage in which there is no lack of surprises and storms. They can come a minute after the most pleasant experiences.

Christ dwells in each and every one of us because we are temples of the Holy Spirit. In times of distress, He wants us to have faith in Him. He commands the waves and winds of our troubles to calm and still. Not only was he able to do this at Gennesaret, but He will continue to do so, for as the letter to the Hebrews says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Christ’s words come to mind: My Father is always at work (Jn 5:17). These are words pronounced by Jesus in the course of a discussion with some religious legalists, who did not want to recognize that God could act even on the Sabbath.

Our Father and Founder has clearly transmitted to us the way to understand and face these storms of our life. It is a matter of discovering the divine will, what it expects of me when the difficulties seem too suffocating or the purification it sends us is painful.

It tells us that the joyful state of Beatitude and the pain of Stigmatization go together. The first refers to continually feeling the breath of the Spirit, to noticing that our fragile boat must navigate many rocks, which make us tremble, but beyond that trembling and the pain it produces, there is the certainty that the Holy Spirit is the wind that carries us: He knows what to do with our anxieties. As St. Peter says, fruit of his experiences: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you (1Pet 5: 6-7). This is what Paul did, pleading “three times” to be delivered from the thorn that tormented him. We do not know what happened in his intimacy, but it is clear that God infected him with his passion for all human beings and he became an example for any apostle.

Thus we see that the emotional and spiritual pain that sometimes oppresses us, without the presence of the Spirit, would be devastating and that presence would be sterile if it did not serve to participate – mysteriously – in the divine yearning for the salvation of all.

_______________________________

In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,

Luis CASASUS

President