12th Sunday Ordinary Time B

All is new!

Frank Kirchberg of Memphis retired a few years ago from the post of a sales executive with U.S. Air Lines. It was the end of an honorable career during which he had raised a fine family. But retirement gave him time to reflect on his life thus far. He had gone to Mass regularly and tried to do the good things and avoid the bad, but he realized he had not done all he might have “as a caring Christian and Catholic.” “When you look at the record closely,” he told the editor of Common Sense, “you will find that a lot of your good Catholic upbringing might perhaps have been lying inert for many years inside you waiting for this phase of your life to blossom.”

So what did he do? In the mid-1970s he enrolled in the corps of those preparing to be ordained permanent deacons of the diocese of Memphis. He could have signed up for a lesser service – Mass-server, lector or Eucharistic minister; but he preferred a greater commitment. The preparatory course gave him a different slant on life. After he was ordained to the diaconate in 1978 he was happy to be assigned to work with young lawbreakers committed to correctional institutions. Experience in sales and as a parent helped him to get on the same wave-length as these youngsters, to whom he became a “father figure.” He has profited as much as they have. “Through the diaconate experience,” he says, “I have been drawn closer to God through a stronger spiritual life, and it is to the point now where that spiritual life is the major emphasis in my thinking.”

When we reach a stage in life when we think we are finished, God often calls us to a second and even greater career. Be ready for such a call. Maybe St. Paul had you in mind when he wrote, “The old order has passed away; now all is new.” (2 Corinthians, 5:17. Today’s second reading).

-Father Robert F. McNamara

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Q377: Jesus rebuked the wind and calmed the sea (Mk 4:35-41). Is Mark’s gospel saying that we can avoid the storms of life if we just call upon Jesus?

No, that is not the message; it would make God into a robot for our use whenever we felt a special need or desire. In fact, to make sure you don’t fall into that trap, the Church chose a brief passage from the Book of Job (Jb 38:1,8-11) for the First Reading as a reminder of the “bigger picture.” In the extended story of Job, he is portrayed as a very good man, always living rightly according to God’s law. Yet in the “storms” of his life, he lost everything (family, health and possessions) despite his holiness. Eventually Job’s life and its blessings were restored and multiplied, but not until he stopped questioning God and simply began to trust in Him, even though he did not understand why he was suffering.

Each one of us is sailing in our own little “boat of life.” Each one of us will meet with storms over which we have no control. That will bring the test – will I begin to question “why me, Lord?” Or will I choose to trust that Jesus is present in my boat with me, seemingly asleep, but still with me in the midst of the storm? Our whole voyage through life is a test of our faith. We say that we believe in Jesus. But when times turn tough, how do we react? When we see a friend with growing dementia, or with an addiction to alcohol; a marriage floundering; or we experience loss of employment; surprise medical bills; weather disasters – will we trust that Jesus is still present through it all, that he always was and still is in everyone’s little boat?

This is the message of today’s gospel. Even in the midst of the storm, when our little boat is being tossed about violently, peace can be experienced only if we truly trust and believe that Jesus is right there with us through it all. Peace is not the absence or avoidance of turmoil; instead, peace comes with a change of heart through our faith-recognition of the presence of Jesus in all circumstances.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Faith is a priceless gift that can be lost if we do not nourish it through meditation on God’s word. Accordingly, our constant beggar’s prayer must be, “Lord, increase my faith” (CCC #162).

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Q533: Two stories today about two storms: is there a connection?

There is a wonderful lesson that ties together both the First Reading (Job 38) and the Gospel (Mark 4:35-41). First, let’s look at suffering Job. We are told in Chapter 1 of the Book of Job that “innocent” Job suffers incredible losses of family, possessions, and health. He is afflicted with severe maladies and endures extreme pain and isolation from community. He never complains against God; nevertheless, despite his grave misfortunes, God remains silent for thirty-six chapters! Job’s attitude is one of “Why me, God?” But in spite of his pain and desolation, while he sought God he always remained faithful to God. When God finally does answer “out of the storm,” it is to remind Job of the reality of the Creator-created relationship, and the necessity of fidelity and trust in God who is always present.

In the Gospel, a similar situation is at hand. The apostles are in a crisis at sea during a storm, and the threat of total loss and disaster is very clear. However, there is one detail that becomes the important point of focus: Jesus is in the boat! But he is sleeping, “silent” in the midst of this chaos. The parallel with the “silence” of God during the suffering of Job is clear.

In the story of Job, because he trusted even in the midst of his suffering, he received a blessing in the form of restored health, new possessions, a larger family, and a long life. In the story of the apostles caught in a storm at sea, they were not as trusting. Jesus recognized their lack of faith, but because of their petition still gave them a blessing by calming the seas.

Jesus also had his “time of silence,” waiting for God to act. Sometimes the blessing will be after death, as it was for Jesus – his ultimate blessing came three days after his crucifixion. The lesson: trust always that God is present, even though he “seems” to be silent. Your trust and faithfulness will be rewarded with blessing, at a time deemed by God as perfect.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! We are called to be faithful, accepting all that comes – whether poverty or fortune. To persevere in the faith we must nourish it with Holy Scripture, and ask the Lord to increase our faith (CCC #162).

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