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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.” The sea is one of the

most difficult and powerful forces of nature. When the Titanic was built over a

hundred years ago, it was claimed to be unsinkable, but we famously know that

that was not the case. Despite the pride of those who designed it, the forces of

nature proved the stronger. During the Second World War, the Allies famously

deceived Hitler to move many of his armies away from Sicily to Sardinia and

the Balkans so they could invade Italy. Hitler thought that, although

historically in ancient times and in Napoleon’s time the Sicily approach had

been used, this is the twentieth century, so the Allies should now be able to

invade via Sardinia and the Balkans. In more recent years, research has been

put into generating electricity from wave and tidal movements, but the rough

conditions of the sea have made it both challenging and expensive, and they lag

behind wind and solar power by many years.


We are perhaps less aware of the power of the sea, but for the disciples in the

boat, they were very aware. The sea was that one thing that could not be

tamed, hence their desperation, and perhaps their rudeness: “Master, do you

not care?” We could say: what a way to speak to the Lord; but it just shows

how much they thought they were going to be shipwrecked.


We know what happens, so we can sit back and almost laugh at the situation.

God Himself created the world and knows it inside out. He spent thousands of

years preparing the world for the coming of Christ. Would He now allow His

only-begotten Son to die in a shipwreck? Oops! Try again! The translation we

use at the moment is, in my opinion, all rather English. Jesus says: “Quiet

now! Be calm!” It sounds a bit like a teacher at a private school telling a few

boys to settle down back to their work. The original Greek has two words,

which I won’t try and pronounce for you. My Interlinear Bible translates these

as “Silence! Be still!” whilst the RSV translation has “Peace! Be still!” So

when it speaks about Christ rebuking the wind, it doesn’t mean giving it a good

telling off, but rather the idea is that of giving a command that cannot be

ignored, just the same as when Christ rebukes a demon in someone who is

possessed. The word of Christ is effective; it’s just like in the first reading:

“Come thus far, I said, and no farther: here your proud waves shall break”.


You can imagine the disciples reflecting on this later, and recalling the words

we heard in the psalm:


“their soul melted away in their distress.

Then they cried to the Lord in their need

and he rescued them from their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper:

all the waves of the sea were hushed.”


We might wonder why they were so slow to catch on that Jesus is the Lord, but

we have the benefit of hindsight; the disciples are only in chapter four out of

sixteen of St Mark’s Gospel. But weren’t they put through their paces? It was

a bit like a roller-coaster ride, except that, metaphorically speaking, they

weren’t aware they had any safety gear or that, as the roller-coaster was falling

to the floor, that suddenly, it would swerve and ascend into the sky.


Our lives can be like this sometimes. God puts us to the test, and it’s only at

the seemingly last minute that some intervention happens. Or what about the

twists and turns in the fortunes of the Church? But do we know who Jesus is?

We can sometimes think that He is either powerless in our situation, or that He

won’t act. But no prayer goes unheard, no petition is made in vain. He may

delay answering our prayer, or He may answer it in a way that we had

expected. Sometimes the answer might even be “no”, for whatever reason. He

sees all things perfectly, whist we just see in a rather limited way. Maybe we

might even not see the full picture this side of the grave, or perhaps in later life

maybe things might fall into place and we see things in perspective. But we

know that He is Lord. “Even the wind and the sea obey him.”

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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