12th Sunday in Ordinary Time ‘B’ – Fr. Rick Sherman June 20, 2021
Jb 38:1, 8-11; 107:23-31; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus 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?”
Wind and spirit the same word. ‘Rebuked’, ‘Quiet’, ‘silence’! Words typically used in exorcisms. Blowing wind possibly a spirit. If it’s a bad spirit it wants to capsize the boat… Similar words used whenever we have God mentioned in the OT who calms the winds and sea Ps. 65, 89, 93, 107
The Gospel today is ultimately about ‘trust’. When most terrified, when most vulnerable and needy, who do we really trust? Especially in matters of life and death, who do we trust? I mean, really?
Jesus was woken amid a violent squall with the disciples feeling as if their very lives were threatened. This idea of being woken with the immediate need to function in an emergency situation caused me to hearken back to my days in the Air Force about ‘100’ years ago. As a relatively low-level Military Policeman, or in the Air Force, Security Policeman, we spent most of our time providing security for the various weapons systems on the air base. The bases I was stationed at in Europe all had fighter jets on 5- or 10-minute alert and ready to ‘scramble’ at a moment’s notice 24 hours per day. There was always a high level of security provided for these assets. It was truly amazing to watch these alert aircraft and crews go into action. These particular fighters had two crew members who could wake up in the middle of the night, get in the plane, communicate with the ground crew and be off the ground in 5 minutes. When the alarm went off we never knew for sure if it was just an exercise or a real incidence of a foreign aircraft wandering into the wrong airspace whether by accident or deliberately. The United States has all kinds of weapons systems on alert all over the world to protect our country from an attack on our safety and our way of life. We tend to take this for granted and afford a remarkably high level of trust to our military.
Being up close is a rather profound experience. Even though I was between 18 and 22 during my military service I was sort of caught off guard when it occurred to me that most people on the flight line, especially at night, were so young. The pilots were probably mostly in their middle to- late twenties and early thirties. The ground crew who got the planes launched were mostly teens and early-to-mid-twenties, the security forces all armed with a variety of loaded automatic weapons, the people in the command post and probably in the control tower were mostly in their 20’s. After I got acclimated to the air base experience, this situation seemed normal enough, but has always occurred to be what a high level of trust everyone had in each other. Lots of training and lots of practice of course was the key, but still, it boggles the mind to consider how much can go wrong on an air base in another country with so many highly lethal weapons at the ready.
Can you imagine getting woken up with the most obnoxious alarm imaginable, sliding off a bunk bed into your boots, then climbing the ladder to the cockpit while the twenty-something ground crew, who were also a little dazed at 2:00 AM, prepares you for launch. And then taxi out to the runway and be off the ground in 5 minutes? Not much time to think; mostly just react. Not knowing if it is real or an exercise. Of course, with the noise level of the fighter jets everyone on the base is now awake as well as most of the civilians living in the neighborhood.
The level of trust, communication and cooperation which has to happen among the many different military functions, the diplomacy that arranged for a base to be in a foreign country, in a certain neighborhood with all the impact that comes with it, is truly extraordinary. Although there are thousands of things that can go wrong every day, the whole operation runs in a remarkably smooth fashion. If it did not, it would be very difficult to place much trust in the mission.
Of course, if you are any kind of medical professional or in law enforcement or a firefighter or hospital chaplain, you are probably saying, ‘welcome to my world.’ Once again enormous amounts of trust in each other’s training, communication and regular cooperation go into being a high-functioning team and community. Likewise any parent knows they have to be ready to be woken up at any time for any type of emergency, real or imagined. Kids like to keep their parents on their toes. In American culture it’s usually the dads who are tasked with getting up in the middle of the night to meet those emergencies, and to do most of the household chores for the that matter. (Wait for chuckle which hopefully comes quickly). Way to go DADs on your special day!! Ladies, it probably wouldn’t kill you to be nice to him for a change… on his special day. Maybe cook supper or something…?
Anyway, back to the boat and Jesus and the disciples and the storm at sea. Jesus is seen here as acting quite autonomously; He quells the wind and the waves all by Himself in an instant with just the command of His voice. Of course, Jesus has that ability and authority because He has been given all the authority and power of Heaven. The Father trusts Him completely. It is highly advisable that in all things, we too cry out to Jesus for help…immediately. BUT then recall that Jesus promised His disciples that they would in fact do much greater things than He once He has sent to them the Holy Spirit. Jesus established the Church to be His presence on earth until the end of the earthly age.
This means that we too can act with all the authority and power of God when we all follow the commandments and cooperate with each other in the mission of the Church. This requires at least a similar level of commitment, training and faithfulness expected of strong families and of all the previously mentioned, trustworthy first responders. The many charisms, talents and treasures of the Church are needed daily from people who are ready to give their lives for the sake of others ….just like Jesus.
The turbulence of life is certainly still with us in all its many forms and degrees, but so is Jesus. Jesus is still on the throne and in the boat and always among us. This would be a great week to reacquaint ourselves with the entire Gospel of Mark, the shortest of the gospels, and let His many miracles speak to us. What type of miracle do we need today? How might Jesus and His Church be responding?