1st Reading: Job 38: 1, 8-11
This ‘parable-story’ is told to challenge the more prevalent beliefs of the day that ‘blessings’ and ‘prosperity’ were signs of God’s favor and one’s own goodness. Instead, it tells us a story of a good person who suffers unspeakable things while all around him believe that Job is responsible for his own misfortune. Job was a wealthy and righteous landowner with a large family; then numerous and horrendous misfortunes raged against him. But Job does question God as to why he is allowing such suffering to happen. His cry and protest becomes his prayer. Today’s reading is part of the ‘reply’. It is designed to also prepare us to hear the gospel story.
Also, just think about the wonderful imagery that is given here as God tells us about creation – how God sees God’s self as a mother giving birth. He tells Job that the sea came bursting forth from God’s own womb! God speaks with maternal care to a man in despair about how he took the clouds and wove them into swaddling clothes for the baby ocean. How he had to teach, discipline, his new creation to stay within its limits and to obey God’s voice, to still proud waves. This story and the gospel urge us to trust God – and thus to trust to Jesus – believing that God’s love is always surrounding us – is actually right in our ‘boat.’ Why is this so important to God – to Jesus? Because faith and trust are like openings that allow God’s love to enter us. When pain and sorrow find us in life, they can stretch us, making room for a deeper relationship with God – with Jesus.
(Fr. John Foley, S.J., “Spirituality of the Readings,” http://liturgy.slu/edu )
The Gospel: Mark 4:35-41
Jesus chides the disciples in their fear and panic much like God chides Job for questioning God’s mysterious and powerful love. We, too, often find ourselves complaining and fearing our own storms and sicknesses and deaths. So how does faith help us? Our faith in Jesus does not guarantee that we will not go under. It is not a magic wand to wave at all difficulties. Our faith is promise that, even if we nearly drown, Jesus will be with us. All our storms can be transformed by the abiding presence of his love. This love will and can cast out all fear. That is how in Christ we become a new creation – a creation that can find safety in God’s love.
(John Kavanaugh, S. J., “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy.slu/edu
Summer Reflections, 2006, p.17 & 18:
The boat has long been recognized as a symbol of the church. Its task is to help people chart their way through the sea of life. [The sea was also a symbol of chaos and evil; note that Jesus uses the same words to calm the sea as he uses when he expels demons.] As Jesus slept, it appeared to the disciples that he was unconcerned about their plight. Is not being tossed about in the turbulence of life as the trials, problems of the world swirl about us like being tossed about in violent waters? It was not much different for the disciples in their chaotic world of the 1st century: hardship, rejection, persecution, misunderstanding, poverty, oppression, destruction, etc. Jesus’ saving power was and is with his disciples. We must depend on his Spirit. He promises that his Spirit will fill our sails in the midst of our trials and tribulations bringing us to a safe harbor.
Jesus tells the sea to be quiet. Be still. Richard Foster challenges us, “Don’t you feel a tug, a yearning to sink down into the silence and solitude of God? Don’t you long for something more? Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to his Presence? It is the discipline of silence that will open the door. You are welcome to come in and listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence,” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 109).
Catherine of Siena wrote, “God is a bright ocean that distills and reveals hidden truths so that my soul has a better understanding of how to trust Love, and this water is a mirror in which You, Eternal Trinity, give me knowledge.” Using these images of the sea, what waves are stirred in you? How do we shake loose from thinking we know better and to trust God with the tides of our lives? What does it feel like to not be able to control the waves? How can we help one another weather the storms?
2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 5: 14-17
Paul is utterly convinced that Christ’s life in us changes everything so much that Christ’s love actually impels us to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ. Paul is trying to point out that because we are one with Christ, death can harm us no more than it can harm Christ. Note, Paul didn’t say we won’t suffer and eventually die, but suffering takes on a new meaning. We are part of a new creation in Christ. (Taken from NCR’s “The Word Scripted for Life” by Sr. Mary McGlone, p. 29)
What a perfect time to consider how we are part of God’s creation with Pope Francis’s encyclical coming out this week! Sr. Elizabeth Johnson has thoughts on Creator Spirit in Quest for the Living God:
Attending to the idea of the Creator Spirit brings to the fore the belief that the presence and activity of God pervade the world and that therefore the natural world is the dwelling place of God. This divine presence is continuous, cruciform and abides in the mode of promise. Creator Spirit dwells in compassionate solidarity with every living being that suffers, from the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroid to the baby impala eaten by a lioness. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without eliciting a knowing suffering in the heart of God. Yet the scientific account of the expanding cosmos and of the evolution of life on this planet makes it clear that the universe, rather than being a settled phenomenon, can be described today only in terms of an open-ended adventure (pp. 187-190).