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).
1st Reading – Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
In this reading, Job is answering his friends who say he is suffering because of his sin. What do you make of his words? What dialogue do you have with God concerning suffering?
The Book of Job explores but does not resolve the fact of suffering. With Job, we see the dark and seamy side of suffering – and Job rails against the injustice of innocent suffering. His ‘friends’ are telling him that his sufferings must be a direct punishment for sin. Job vehemently disagrees. This passage is one of his lengthy, descriptive laments. In the end, after a series of intense, poetic exchanges with God, Job accepts that his suffering cannot be explained away or completely understood. His ‘friends’ are wrong; God harshly corrects them. As the book ends and Job is restored, suffering is still seen as an intrinsic part of the gift of human life. Job learns to accept what he cannot understand and to trust in the inscrutable wisdom of God. (Preaching Resources, Feb. 9, 2003)
The mystery of pain…Why does God allow it to happen? There is no satisfactory answer to that question. But as Christians, we believe that violence, suffering and death are never the last word. We have hope. We do not have a God who is removed from our sufferings; ours is a God who has lived a human life and knows suffering. There may not be answers that will satisfy, but for the believer there is God, who is sorrowful with us, who offers us eternal life, and who moves us, through our hearts, to build a more loving and compassionate society. (Fr. James Martin in the New York Daily News after the Newtown school shootings)
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 9:16–19, 22-23
This is the cost of discipleship. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said:
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
From Bonhoeffer who wrote The Cost of Discipleship:
“…what we want to know is not, what would this or that man, or this or that Church, have of us, but what would Jesus Christ himself wants of us.” (p. 37)
“Happy are they who, knowing that grace, can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world.” (p. 60)
“He who is called must go out of his situation in which he cannot believe, into the situation in which, first and foremost, faith is possible.” (p. 67)
The Gospel – Mark 1: 29-39
Before this passage, Mark tells of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum and casting out demons (last Sunday’s gospel), and then the day goes on with this reading –Mark is presenting dramatically a ‘typical’ day in the life of Jesus who is intent upon proclaiming and ‘preaching’ God’s Kingdom. What do we see of God’s kingdom here?
John Pilch points out that in Jesus’ culture Peter’s mother-in-law should have been living in her husband’s family home – or — if he was dead, then, she would be with one of her sons. The fact that she is in Peter’s house suggests that she may have no other living family members to take care of her. This woman may have known a lot more sorrow than just this fever. When Jesus touches her, she rises up with energy and purpose in her life. Jesus seemed to have helped her regain her meaning in life. This was beautifully expressed by her eager service. What do you see in her story?
From Celebrations, Feb., 2003:
Comfortable Christianity is an oxymoron. We like to imagine those in a deep relationship to God to be peace-filled . . . But to be honest, the most ‘responsive,’ committed Christians . . . are often ‘driven,’ compelled –with at least some measure of agitation and turmoil . . .the calling [from God] deep within – if heeded – is almost guaranteed to increase sensitivity to the demands that abundantly present themselves! There are always more hungry mouths to feed, more injustices to deal with, more violence to be overcome, more broken hearts to be healed . . .Yet “while it was still dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” It was from that quiet place that he moved on . . .