12th Sunday Year B
As we face the storms of our lives, have no fear, but have faith.
In the Gospel this week, Jesus and the disciples were in a boat. “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.” (verse 37) The boat is like our Church, it is constantly battling great storms. It is not only storms from outside, but also storms brewing from within our ranks. This is none more so than in the present age. Outside the church, the secular world accuses Christians of lacking in compassion and flexibility, as we affirm Jesus’ teaching on the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage – over issues such as abortion, euthanasia, contraception, divorces, same-sex union, etc. Within the Church, we have some clergy and laity nudging the Church to change its teachings on these fundamental tenets of Christianity. Of course, let us not forget also the politics and scandals that engulf the Church from within – corruption, paedophilia, power struggle, etc. Indeed, the boat is being swamped.
Amidst these challenges, it is legitimate for us to ask: where is God? The disciples in the boat must be wondering the same thing as well. Their boat was being swamped by the wave, but where is Jesus? And to their astonishment, they found Him “in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (verse 38). To the disciples, this must have been a discouraging discovery. Was Jesus “sleeping on the job”? So it is with us today. Sometimes we cannot help but wonder, with all the persecution and scandals plaguing the Church, all the challenges and accusations we face, where is God in all these?
Rest assured, my dear brothers and sisters, Jesus is not “sleeping on the job”. The truth is, the source of our anxiety does not lie with Jesus, it lies with us. Often, we would like God to behave at the exact time and in the exact way we want Him to. We all want an easy life. We all want God to intervene whenever there is a problem so that the problem would go away quickly. It is the same when I was a young child growing up. When I was cold, I wanted my parents to intervene immediately by putting a blanket over me. When I was hungry, I wanted my parents to intervene immediately by putting food on the table. As I grew older, in spite of my greater ability to care for myself, I continue to expect my parents’ timely intervention to every challenge in my life – to help with my school work; to ferry me from places to places; to provide financial help; etc etc. Wiser parents would withhold or at least delay interventions, to allow the child to grow, to mature and to learn resilience. For often, it is only when we experience and overcome challenges that we gain resilience and learn problem solving skills. And the eventual triumph is all the more sweeter as well.
This is so even for Jesus Himself. At the Garden of Gethsemane, on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus prayed for the Father to take the cup away from Him. At that moment, Jesus Himself was like us in some ways, wanting the difficult trial to go away. Importantly, Jesus added this vital caveat: “yet, not my will but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42, c.f. Mt 26:39) Jesus knew that His crucifixion must necessarily precede His resurrection. For He said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Jn 12:24) For it is in dying to ourselves that we often see the bigger picture. That our lives are all interconnected. The death I die and the sufferings I bear can serve a greater good. We take inspirations from the Saints of our Church. The death of St Maximilian Kobe in Auschwitz uplifted the spirit of his fellow prisoners; the self-sacrificing service of St Teresa of Calcutta inspired the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity to serve the poor. This is the reason St Paul said in the Second Reading this week, “he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (verse 15).
My dear friends, let us reflect. Were there times in my life that I was so engross to my own challenges that I forgot to help myself; that I forgot there were others that were less fortunately than I who needed my help? Have I ever complained that a sore on my foot is stopping me from putting on my favourite pair of shoes; that I forgot there are people in this world with no feet to wear shoes? This week Scripture Readings urge us to never lose faith, even as life’s challenges may seem unbearable at times. This is the story of Job in the First Reading. Job lost everything he owned and was stricken with painful sores. In spite of his sufferings, Job kept his faith and continued to praise God. Finally, God revealed His might to Job, proclaiming his power over all of creation. In the First Reading, God affirmed his power as the omnipotent God, who reigns over the clouds and the raging sea (verse 8). Eventually, God restored Job’s health and his fortune. Figuratively speaking, Job was resurrected.
In the Gospel story, Jesus “woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm” (verse 39). My brothers and sisters, as the Church faces its storms and we face the personal storms of our life, let us remember the words of Jesus. He is speaking to us as he spoke to the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (verse 40). Have no fear, my dear friends. Have faith.