Job 38:1.8-11; Ps.107; 2Cor.5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41
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Fr. Evaristus Okeke
BECOMING MEN OF GREAT FAITH!
“… Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? ” (Mark 4:40)
The first and the gospel readings of today demonstrate to us that God is not unconcerned about the sufferings and predicaments of men. He may be silent but he is remains always watchful; and because he is actively watching, a time comes when He gives the appropriate response. From the beginning of the gospel of St. Mark up until the narrative of today, Jesus has been teaching and healing a few sick people. The author of St. Mark’s gospel situates the teachings and miracles of Jesus as instruments for revealing the identity of Jesus so that the people may come to believe in him. In fact, from the response of Jesus to the disciples today, we can perceive a tone of disappointment that the disciples’ faith had not grown to an expected level; that is, that they have not yet come to a better knowledge of who Christ is even after witnessing his teachings and works.
While Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God using parables, a portion of the crowd admired his wisdom, another portion sought for ways to test him, while a third portion rather compared his uncommon wisdom with his humble background. So, rather than perceiving the presence of God in their midst, the much the people could conclude was that a great prophet has arisen amongst them. Even when Jesus healed a few sick persons, the people were amazed but only thought of him as a great physician or a great magicians. This is because Physicians and Magicians have been known for healing and performing signs respectively, only that Jesus’ acts were to a greater degree. In all of these, the divine identity remained obscure to the people.
In calming the storm, Jesus demonstrated God’s power in combating all forms of evil. In the verses preceding the gospel of today, He has addressed the evil of sickness and demonic possession. Today, he is addressing the evil of nature. Next Sunday, he will address the issue of death. It therefore means that when we systematically follow Jesus with an open heart, we will come to discover and understand who he is and what he can do. Knowing Jesus goes beyond calling him the names attributed to him, it goes beyond being able to quote the bible and deliver high sounding theological piece; knowing Jesus is about experiencing him personally so that what we say about him is not simply what we have heard but what we have experienced ourselves. Until we get to that level in our relationship with Jesus, we remain men of little faith like the disciples in today’s gospel reading.
It is our personal encounter with God that will give us courage to trust Him especially when things go wrong; it will also assure us that the Lord is always with us even when situations around us want to prove otherwise. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that we can be sure that Christ loves us because He died for us. One who did not spare his life to save us, will not refuse us any good because he has already given us the greatest good.
Beloved, Jesus will not condemn us if as at today our encounter with him is still minimal so long as we are ready to grow. He did not condemn the disciples. Like the disciples, we can sometimes be carried away by our natural abilities or expertize. Some of the disciples were professional fishermen. Combating with the storm of the wind must have been a usual experience for them, for which they must have developed some mechanism to handle. It is however evident from their words to Jesus that their expertise failed them. They could see death approaching, and so, they were afraid.
In waking Jesus, they called him “Teacher” because that was the much they knew of him. They woke him not with the expectation that he will calm the storm but with some level of surprise that someone could afford to be asleep in such a tensed and life threatening situation. They woke him to see if he had any idea to give for their safety; they woke Jesus for Jesus’ own good so that rather than die from his sleep, he would have some time to at least anticipate his death from the raging storm. Beloved, Jesus was asleep, not because he never knew what was happening, not because he never cared about his life and that of his disciples, but because he knew that the storm could do nothing.
My dear, there is a level of communion that Jesus wants us to reach with him. This level is only possible when we learn to experience Him personally. For this reason, Jesus will not prevent the storms of life from barking at us but he will continue to reveal himself in different ways, according to the particular storm we are facing, so that these storms become teaching experiences for us on who God is and the nature of his power.
Jesus calmed the storm with the spoken word; the same word with which God created the world (with the storm inclusive). Thus, Jesus is God. From the answer the Lord gave to Job in the first reading of today, we come to understand that creatures can never overpower the creator. What was made can never overrule who made it. If we know Jesus as our master, and we position ourselves as his friends, we can sure that all our challenges of life are mere slaves to the Master. God Bless You!
Fr Galadima Bitrus, (OSA)
FORCES OF NATURE AND DIVINE AUTHORITY
The question of the existence and omnipotence of God in the midst of evil, especially the evil of natural calamities, is a perennial one. The liturgical readings today help us to reflect on some aspects of this question.
In the 1st Reading (Job 38:1.8-11), we encounter one of God’s responses to Job’s questions concerning his unjustifiable suffering. By means of rhetorical questions, God shows Job how he established boundaries of the sea and brought order to the earth’s raging waters.
The motif of God conquering water is also found in the first creation narrative, whereby the earth is presented as first “formless and void, with darkness over the face of the deep and a wind or Spirit of God (Rȗaḥ Elohîm) sweeping over the water” (Gen 1:1-2). Thus, the creative word of God brought about order where there was only formlessness, light where there was only darkness, and content where there was only void.
Clearly, God’s response does not justify Job’s suffering or even explain it, but it reveals the fact that God is absolutely aware of the vicissitudes of his innocent servants and is ultimately in charge of the universe, intervening and bringing an end to the chaos and lousy presence of evil in the lives of God’s good people and in God’s good world, even though the divine intervention does not seem to always arrive in our own time and in our own way. But as the saying goes, God’s time is the best and “the way of God is perfect, his word is true” (2 Sam 22:31; Ps 18:30).
The 2nd reading (2 Cor 5:14-17) picks up the theme of creation to explain the effect of Christ’s death on the believer. Christ’s death, another classical instance of the seeming triumph of evil over good, becomes for the believer God’s perfect point of intervention to bring to an end the old order and inaugurate a new order: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).
The Gospel Reading (Mk 4:35-41) is the account of how Jesus calmed the storm. It continues the theme of God’s authority over the evil of the forces of nature, exemplified by raging waters. We also see the condition of fear and powerlessness that evil can reduce us into, if we do not have faith or if we lose faith.
Jesus had just finished teaching about the kingdom of God in parables of a sower and of the mustard seed, revealing the mysterious nature of how the kingdom of God grows, as well as its humble beginnings and great results, thus showing us how great things happen to little things when God is involved.
As he left with the disciples in the boat to the other side of the lake, a great windstorm arose, raising strong waves that threatened to wreck the boat. Meanwhile, Jesus was asleep in the extreme back of the boat (vv. 35-37). The disciples woke him up rebuking him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing”? At this, Jesus woke up and rebuked the wind and calmed the sea. He then turned to the disciples and rebuked them, “Why are you afraid? Don’t you still have faith?” In awe, the disciples wondered at the real identity of Jesus, seeing that even the wind and the sea obeyed him (vv. 38-41).
Jesus’ sleeping in the midst of a storm echoes the story of Jonah in the Old Testament, whereby the storm raged and threatened to break the ship while Jonah was fast asleep down the hold of the ship (Jn 1:5). But while the sailors called on Jonah to call upon his God to save them from perishing, the disciples called upon Jesus to care that they were perishing. Therefore, while Jonah could only intercede, here was one greater than Jonah (cf. Mt 12:41; Lk 11:32); Jesus could himself save the disciples from perishing, which gives us a hint of his divine nature.
In rebuking the wind and calming the storm, Jesus used the expression, “Siōpa! Pephímōso!”, which literally means “become silent, become quiet” (Mk 4:39), an expression Jesus also used to exorcise evil spirits. In Mark 1:25, Jesus rebukes a man possessed by an unclean demon, saying, “Be silent (phimōthēti) and come out of him” (see also Luke 4:35). This goes to show that here, the situation is understood not as an ordinary storm but an embodiment of evil forces, hence, Jesus calms the storm the way he would exorcise evil spirits.
By calming the sea, Jesus manifests his divine status and authority. In the Hebrew Bible and in some ancient Near Eastern writings, the imagery of God as the one who conquers and calms the sea is quite common. In Ps 65:7, God is described as the one who by his power “stills the raging seas and the raging waves.” In Ps 89:10, God is praised and described as, “You rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves surge, you still them.” Similarly, in Ps 107:29, God is said to have “reduced the storm into a whisper; the waves are still.”
Jesus also rebuked the disciples for their fear, questioning whether they have lost their faith. Clearly, therefore, while faith does not take away the existence of evil nor explain it, faith can help us to conquer fear in our battle against evil, since a man of faith does not rely merely on his human capacity but is open also to God’s intervention, knowing that when God is involved, greater things happen. For even the wind and the sea obey! As Saint Augustine rightly put it, “When God is our strength, we are indeed strong, but when our strength is our own, we are weak” (Confessions II.16.31).
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Today’s gospel presents us with the calming of the storm by Jesus. Christ demonstrates his power over nature. The first reading gives an insight of this manifestation when Job was reminded that it is the Lord who has power over the elements (fire, water, wind). The Lord “prescribes bounds for the sea; the voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare and the Lord sits enthroned over the flood. Beloved, the Lord has power over the entire universe. ‘What God cannot do does not exist’. Therefore, do not give up when it becomes stormy in the course of our Christian journey. With the Lord on our side no storm can capsize us.
Storm refers to a rushing, raging, violent agitation, wind or tempest. In the political storm could be a violent civil or political commotion; sedition; insurrection; clamor; tumult or disturbance of the public peace. In the spiritual parlance whenever we speak of storm we mean affliction; calamity; distress or adversity. In this sense, storms are the afflictions that weigh against our spiritual growth or faith maturity. Life is beautiful because of growth, Christ wants us to grow, and he wants us to move further in life and mission. In doing this there are definite storms.
Jesus himself invites us into this spiritual journey. He says in the gospel “‘Let us cross over to the other side” (Mark4:35). We all have reasons for relocation at one point or another. Either we relocate because of the nature of our job, or in search for greener pasture or for mission. Migration has been part of human life; God even said to Abraham ‘leave your father’s house to a place I will show you’. In today’s gospel Jesus and the disciples were to cross over for mission yet there was storm. In the same vein, when we desire to achieve goals in life we tend to encounter storms in life that may want to discourage us. In such situations, like the disciples, let us call on Jesus. We must learn to call on Jesus all the time and in moments when we are going through the storms of life. Beloved, when we want to move into a marital status, when we want to travel, when we want to graduate, let us learn to call on Jesus. These are stages in life that we definitely encounter storms. Ps. 50:15 says “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me.” The psalm of today continues with this theme saying “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.” (Ps.107:28-29). Beloved, do you think God’s ears are closed to your cry – call on him passionately in faith and he will answer you.
Lastly, Jesus said to his disciples “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Beloved, often times in the face of storms we are usually scared. We come to that point in life that we are scared to move on, we are afraid to take the next step, we are afraid to confront the challenges of life. Beloved, whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of success, fear of crossing over, fear of insecurity and accidents, overcoming our fears is one of the most important steps to personal spiritual development. Anyone who wants to grow spiritually must be ready to overcome his or her fear. No matter what you are going through right now; do not be afraid it will not overwhelm you. We may be going through fire right now, fear not we serve a living God. Deut. 31:6 says “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 says “…“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Be still the Lord is with you.
Rev. Fr. Stephen Udechukwu
Where is God?
Challenges and problems are inevitable part of human existence. No matter how often we sing the song “me I no go suffer, I no go beg for bread, God of miracle na my papa o…” problems will still surface. No matter how close and holy we feel we are, challenges will still emanate. In fact the more holy or close we tend to become to God, the more challenges we seem to face. Hence Sirach 2:1 prepare us for this when he says “My son, if you have decided to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials” and Jesus himself says in Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23 “If anyone wants to be my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. Thus life sometimes presents us with challenges that encourage a cry of fear, doubt and abandonment. It elevate us to the point of asking certain questions that reveal our weakness that makes us ask questions like where is God? Has God abandoned me? is there really God? If God is really so great and powerful, why should he allow this to happen?
Our gospel reading today draws our attention to Jesus’ disciples. They have been following Jesus around and listening to him but they are yet to prove themselves. So the story we have today serve as an opportunity for them to show what they know or don’t know; an opportunity to know what their faith look like. Now in Mark 4:1 Jesus teaches the people about the kingdom of God but this time from the boat because of the large crowd that had gathered to listen to him. In the evening of that same day there arose a need for Jesus to cross over to the other side of the sea of Galilee. And so Jesus said to his disciples “let us cross over to the other side”. Jesus however gave no reason for the urgent desire to travel across the sea of Galilee in the evening instead of waiting until it is morning which would have probably enabled them a safe and troubleless journey. Meanwhile as they are crossing to the other side of the sea of Galilee, they are crossing into other boundaries into Gentile territory where they will meet a man possessed by a legion of demon in Mark 5.
Now this crossing is not without a challenge. The devil knew the mission of Jesus and his disciples and so he launched an attack to destroy them. A great storm arose in the middle of the journey such that the disciples who were fishermen and perhaps masters of the sea felt they would perish. Meanwhile while this was happening Jesus was peacefully “sleeping”. They did all they could as professional fishermen to calm the sea but the problem persisted. At this point they felt the need of Jesus and began to look for him. Thus finding him sleeping while they were about perishing was disheartening to them hence they said to him “Master, do you not care if we drown? They made a cry of fear, distress, doubt and abandonment. But Jesus rose in his power and calm the storm.
Notice that Jesus was with the disciples yet they faced the challenge of the sea. Hence, that we are children of God does not exempt us from challenges rather it makes our challenges light and easy to bear. The disciples like many of us first trusted in their own human powers and expertise, they tried to calm the see but could not and immediately they went to the right person:Jesus. Many times we forget that Jesus is always in our boat and so we keep on struggling in fruitlessness; we continue to ask where is God while He is very close to us. Jesus was in the boat with the disciples during the storm, he knew about the storm and he saw their struggles with the storm because he is God but he did not act until he was invited to act. Hence Jesus says in Matthew 11: 28 “Come to me all you who labour and I will give you rest”. Invite Jesus to your challenges and he will calm the turbulent sea of your life because psalm 24:1 affirms that “the Earth and it’s fullness belong to God. May Jesus the master who calm the sea for his disciples, calm the turbulent sea of our lives and give us peace. Amen.
Fr. Paul Oredipe
The Challenge of Faith in the storms of our life
“Who can this be? – that the wind and the sea obey him”. This is the great question asked at the end of the Gospel of today. It is a question that we all have to face and answer at one time or another in our life.
Jesus is both God and Man. In Him, divinity and humanity are so jointly united that it is impossible to separate one from the other.
Our Gospel passage today is the story of each one of us. Now let us ask ourselves; what is this story meant to tell us ?
1. to remind us that life is a journey. 2. to tell us that in this journey of life we shall face storms. 3. to remind us that we are not alone in this journey. 4. to call us to complete faith and stable trust in the power of a God who is able, who cares and who never fails.
These were the lessons displayed in the Gospel story. Jesus was there with them as the one in charge. Even as He slept, He was in charge and in control.
Today’s first reading and the responsorial Psalm express the awesomeness of the sea. In the Jewish idea of cosmology and their mentality and perception about the sea, the ancient Hebrew was terrified of the sea. For them, the sea, they concluded, was the abode of the devil and his evil spirits. They were powerless against it. As the abode of the evil, only God could master the sea and subdue it. Psalm 89: 10 testifies to this belief. It proclaims God indeed has the power to control the sea, and the book of Job (9:8) reminds us that God alone can tread upon the towering crest of the sea.
Life presents all kinds of storms: disease, natural disaster, epidemics, and famines, disappointments and human anger, hatred, prejudice, injustice, betrayal and selfishness.
We all, at different times, have seen and experienced storms. It is noisy, it shatters, it breaks things up, it scatters, it is complete chaos. That was exactly the experience of those disciples with Jesus Christ on the sea. However, this is not a strange experience. Our lives have their ups and downs; there are times of trouble, times of pain, times of heartbreak. We are faced with problems. We struggle with difficulties. These can be personal or communal.
What then do we do in that kind of situation? When everything has failed, even when you yourself have failed yourself? Do we lose heart and give in to doubt, denial, disappointment, discouragement, bitterness, desolation, despair and eventually to death? Are we overcome by doubts and our fears like the disciples overcome by the waves? Do we desperately try to find help anywhere or everywhere possible?
To say that God was asleep is not correct because God does not sleep. HE never sleeps, but God in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune God can sleep. We should learn not always to rely on our skills and powers alone.
Fear is our greatest enemy, the greatest enemy of families and of communities. It paralyzes us, impedes creativity, the Gospel adventure. Someone was very right to say: “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”
Really, there is nothing wrong with being afraid. Fear is one of the God-given emotions of the human race. But when fear begins to paralyze our lives, then it is out of control and instead of being a healthy emotion which God intended should be a help on our lives, it becomes a sickness and prevents us from living a normal Christian life and keeps us from growing in our spiritual life . . . and in our love for God.
The disciples had some measure of faith, but when they find themselves threatened by the storm, fear grips their hearts and they forgot about God. Suddenly it seems that they have not one to turn to, that no one cares about them. Seeing Jesus, their Teacher, “sound asleep on a cushion,” makes the situation even worse. They woke Him up, not to ask for His help, but to reproach Him bitterly: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”
Jesus quickly calmed the wind and the waves, and then identified two problems that afflict them, fear and lack of faith: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”
Just as He said to the disciples, Jesus is telling us today: “Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?” Jesus is challenging us. Even if He seems to be “sleeping”, we know that we have nothing to fear. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
The challenge today is to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to believe in the sun even when it is not shining, to believe in Jesus to the point where we can let Him sleep in the boat even with ourselves as His pillow while the dreadful storm rages on.
God with us, so close to us in the Blessed Sacrament. How often do we visit, call and stay with Him? Hebrew 4:15 – 16 tells us: “For the high priest we have is not incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us, but has been put to the test in exactly the same way as ourselves, apart from sin. Let us, then, have no fear in approaching the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace when we are in need of help.”
Brothers and sisters, God will never abandon us. We must go to Him, using all the means we need to employ. At all times, tell Jesus with the confidence of one who has taken Him as his Master, and wants to follow Him unconditionally.
In fact, to know that Christ is with us amidst all the turbulence of life is a great cause for jubilation, celebration and thanksgiving.
So I say to you once more in the words of Christ, “so there is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Today, as Jesus renews His commitment to us in this Mass, let us ask Him to be our strength amidst the storms of life.
Brothers and sisters, we come here to celebrate our faith in God and God’s faith in us. And if that is true, then we should leave this Church as confident people – confident not only in what God can do, but confident in the power of faith. It is the faith that Jesus encouraged in the Gospel and it is the faith that is so often needed in life’s situations today. Real faith, authentic faith and mature faith; the faith that sees the invisible; the faith that believes the unbelievable; the faith that receives the impossible.
With Jesus’ calming of the storm today, we have several lessons to learn. The three readings have several things in common. For one, there are absolute truths: that God can do all things, that Jesus is God and that all of us go through storms in life. Another lesson is victory over suffering and death. The book of Job shows that the only one who has power over suffering is God.
And the Gospel story of the storm is true not only in a literal sense but it happened once upon a time in Galilee, but in a symbolic sense as well. The boat carrying the disciples and Jesus is the Church of Christ travelling in the midst of persecutions and difficulties. Jesus never promised His Church trouble-free life or promised the Christians trouble free world. He once said that if the world persecuted Him, then we who follow Him, will definitely be persecuted as well.
“Fare thee well and if forever, still forever, fare thee well” may God bless you and may He watch over you and provide for you abundantly in your ministry through Christ our Lord. Amen
Again, we may not know the future, but one thing we know for certain is the ONE who has the whole time and creation in His hands – our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be praise, glory and honour now and forever. Amen.
And for all of us, may the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the everlasting love of God, the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever. Amen
In all our troubles, let us remember
WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS
1. What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh what needless pain we bear –
All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer.
2. Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness – Take it to the Lord in prayer.
3. Are we weak and heavy – laden? Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge – Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield you, You will find a solace there.