20 June 202112 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
12 Ordinary Time

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 4:35-41

A kindergarten teacher, says Margaret Avery, was telling this Gospel of calming the seas to British students. Outside the school, a blizzard was blowing. While she was struggling to get the children through the snowdrifts to the school buses at 3PM, she heard one 5 year old say to his chum: "We could be doing with that chap Jesus right now."

Jesus and the twelve had spent the daytime hours preaching. They were exhausted. They wanted quiet hours for a fishfry, wine, conversation, and sleep. But huge crowds pursued Jesus. Then as now He had huge box office draw.

He said to them: "Let's break camp and go to the other side." But, because it looked like a storm, the apostles did not want to ship out. Remember some of them were experienced sailors. Only reluctantly did they sail with Him.

Peter's boat would seat a party of thirteen comfortably, All got in and Jesus began sail with a boatload of very unhappy campers. Soon the exhausted Jesus was in the stern asleep.

Initially it was a peaceful sail. The apostles were dozing. The only one working was the muttering Peter at the helm.

Then the mother of all storms arose. The weather people among the apostles had been correct.

When cold winds come out of the mountains in the north, they whip up the lake with waves six feet high. If you were in a small boat in such a storm, you could forget about sending out a distress signal. Just get on your knees and sing, ~I'm Coming Home, Lord." Humungus waves were washing over the boat. Everyone was drenched.

Peter shouted, "Get that sail down" - though he used much more colorful language. The vessel was in danger of capsizing. They broke out the oars and aimed for the nearest shore. Those not rowing were bailing furiously.

Unaccountably, Jesus continued to sleep despite the apostles now singing "Nearer My God to Thee." More unaccountably the apostles allowed Jesus to sleep. Finally, when their nerves broke, they angrily shook Him.

The still sleepy Christ stood. Wind was whipping through His hair. His beard and clothing were sticking to His lean body. One can understand why the nineteenth century Delacroix painted fourteen different versions of this miracle.

Notice Jesus addresses the awesome sea as a person. "Quiet. Be still." This ties in with the Jewish belief that the devil lived in the water. It was the devil who was churning up the lake. And so Jesus spoke to him directly. 

There is a calm. The apostles are stunned. Their Leader switched off the storm without any effort. The Jews believed that only God had power over storms and sea.

Then He spoke to them with a rage, "Why were you so terrified? Where was your faith?"

He had done such a good job of calming the wind the sail was useless. They had to use oars to get to the shore and some dry clothes. The tired Jesus went back to sleep on His wet pillow.

Mark wrote his Gospel toward the end of first century. The Church was already in big trouble. Emperors were persecuting the Church. The favorite outdoor sport of Romans was feeding Christians to lions. The apostles were either on the run or martyred. Jesus was off stage. Christians were cowering in the catacombs. There were heresies. Informers and scandals were everyplace. People lined up to abandon ship.

Mark is saying to early Christians, "We've been down this road before. If you think you got it bad, you should have been in the boat that night. Jesus in His own time will rise from sleep and say to our enemies: 'Quiet. Be still.' And the Church will move into the second century with all flags flying."

Throw all this 1900 years into the early 21st century. Numbers of priests decline. Few young women join the convent. Catholics squabble among themselves. Many young are turned off. Ugly sexual scandals are about us. People jump over the side. Like the 5 year old who began this homily, we are saying, "We could use that chap Jesus right now."

Mark is telling us through this story Christ will once again play Superman when He is ready. He will then ask us sharply, "Why are you so fearful? Where is your faith?" And the Church will flourish in the 21st century. 

The aphorism teaches that when you have nothing left but God, you will find God quite enough. The German poet Rilke said God's grace quietly refuses to destroy us. Our prayer then should be that of the seamen of Brittany, "Lord, the sea is so large and our boat is so small. Come quickly."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
12 Ordinary Time

Twelfth Sunday: God Over Nature

At the end of the Book of Job, God addressed Job out of a storm and asked him if he was present when God created the world. In today’s first reading God speaks about the creation and confining of the sea. In the Gospel, Jesus quiets a storm, and the disciples ask, “Who is this whom even the wind and sea obey?”

Insurance companies use a term to describe an uncontrollable natural force. They call this an act of God. That is an unfortunate term. It assumes that God causes nature to do harm to people. God does not do evil things to people. People do evil things to people. Pope Francis in the encyclical Lauate Si, On the Care for our Common Home, directs us to discover and prevent any catastrophe that could rightly be called an Act of Man.

Natural catastrophes are events that we are very much aware of here in Florida. We are always keeping an eye on the weather and how it will effect the waters around us. We have to have a lot of respect for stormy weather, particularly when a hurricane threatens. Here at St. Ignatius, we either have hurricane windows, or wood or metal doors and windows to protect the Church and all of our buildings. Hopefully, you have all made provisions to protect your homes also.

As careful as people have to be with their property that is on land, they have to be far more careful with that which is on the water. Boats have got to be secured. Trying to stay afloat during a major storm is foolish unless you are in a really large ship.

The ancients also had a healthy respect for the sea and for storms out on the sea. The ancients saw the sea as one of the most powerful forces in the world. They also saw the sea as a source of beauty. Life itself came from the sea. Food comes from the sea. Peace and serenity come from looking at the sea. If you don’t believe me than you haven’t gone out to see the sunset on Howard Park recently.

Even though it was such a powerful force, the ancients knew that God could control the sea. In the Book of Job, Job’s pains lead him to question God's wisdom and power. God challenges Job with the simple statement found in the first reading for this Sunday: “I closed up the sea.” God has even more power than the sea.

The fear of a storm at sea was too much for Jesus' disciples in the today’s Gospel reading. Many of them were fishermen. They were terrorized when they saw the storm coming. When Jesus quieted the sea and the winds, they recognized the power of God working through him. Their question: “Who is this that calms the storm and the winds?” was similar to asking, “Who is the King of Glory?”

First, though, their faith was tried. Remember, when the storm came up, Jesus was asleep in the boat. It appeared that He was not concerned with their plight. It seemed that they had to ride out this storm alone. The fear that the disciples had is the same fear that we all have when we are confronted with a crisis. We find out that we have a serious illness, and we become fearful for our lives and for our loved ones. We learn a terrible truth about one of our relatives or friends, and we fear that their lives and even our own reputations will be shattered. We often have to accept a change in our lives. Even changes as routine as moving from Middle School to High School, or High School to college, or college to independent life as a young adult can be frightening. We consider marriage and our responsibilities to a person we love, and then we consider our responsibilities to those people that we bring into the world, and we fear that we might not be up to the challenges of life. We fear that we are alone. But we are not alone. God sees. God knows. He’s there in the boat of life with us as the storms rage. He challenges us as Jesus challenged his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” Our all loving God is also an all-powerful God. He will calm the sea for us if we trust in Him. God does not forget us, even if we think He is sleeping.

Perhaps today’s readings are not about nature after all. They are about God, the One who created the universe and cares for each one of us as an only child. He calls upon us to have faith that conqueror of the seas and of all chaos will help us grow closer to Him through all the challenges of our lives.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
12 Ordinary Time

Gratitude Week 2: Fatherhood

(June 20, 2021)

Bottom line: Self-giving begins with gratitude. We are grateful to God for creating us in his own image, male and female. On Father's Day, we say, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love is everlasting."

Happy Father's Day! We are praying for our dads, living and deceased. In the bulletin you will see a picture of my dad fifty years ago when I gave him my first priestly blessing. The theme for this Sunday is gratitude for our dads and for the gift of fatherhood. Our Psalm verse says: "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love is everlasting."

Gratitude for fatherhood is not so easy. We are in the middle of storm like today's Psalm describes::

His command raised up a storm wind which tossed its waves on high. They mounted up to heaven; they sank to the depths; their hearts melted away in their plight.

We feel storm tossed today, especially regarding fatherhood. To get our bearings we have to go back to the beginning. Here's what the Bible says:

God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)

The big question for us is, what does it mean to be male or female? Some guys are very manly, They work hard to get strong muscles. Other guys are more on the wimpy or nerdy side. The varieties of masculinity are limitless. Let me give my own example.

You can probably guess that as a kid, I was not one of the "jocks". I loved baseball but when they were choosing teams, I usually got chosen last. One day that changed. When the two captains came out of their huddle, one of them chose me first! I was bowled over. I still played right field, but I felt like my athletic abilities were finally being recognized. That was the happiest day of my young life. My happiness, however, did not last. Next day, I learned that when the captains huddled, they agreed instead of choosing last me and some other wimpy kid, they would choose us first!

As I grew older, I realized that masculinity did not mean fulfilling some macho stereotype, but something much deeper - what we see in the verse following Genesis 1:27. After creating us male and female, God gives his very first command, "be fertile and multiply." (Gen 1:28) Or as one translation says, "have many, many children." the Masculinity involves the world-changing possibility of becoming a father.

That sounds a little scary. It is, but it brings joy. I've seen the joy of dads when he realizes his wife is pregnant. And then to see the birth of his child. Some couples suffer terribly because they cannot have a child, but in general God wants to give parents the joy of children. I've realized that joy myself, but in a different way. Last January at the Mary Bloom Center in Peru they had a celebration for my 50th anniversary of priesthood. It involved food, dances and a Mass. It expressed gratitude for spiritual fatherhood. Something similar will happen here in August.

A guy might retire from his job, but he cannot retire from paternity. Our lives are not about self-expression; our lives are about self-giving. We are made for fatherhood and motherhood. That's the call and responsibility God gave us when he created us male and female.

Again, this doesn't mean there is some stereotyped way of being masculine or feminine. The Bible does not give a list of what men should do and what women should do. In fact, the Bible breaks stereotypes. For example, it highlights some great female warriors like Deborah and Judith.

Jesus himself breaks stereotypes. Today we see him in a boat asleep on a pillow. To be a spiritual father, you don't need to be a workaholic. It's OK to take a nap. But Jesus is ready to hear the needs of his family. They cry "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Jesus then calms the sea. He says, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?"

Well, we do have a way to go in terms of faith. Next Sunday will help us. Many of feel deep hurt because our children have distanced themselves from the faith. How do we pray for them? How do we see Jesus at work in all this? That's for next Sunday.

On this Father's Day we thank God for the gifts of masculinity and femininity. They make it possible for a person to become a father or a mother, to have children - physical and spiritual. Chesterton said, "When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude."

When I was growing up, we took masculinity and femininity for granted. Today we are challenged to take them with gratitude. Remember: life is not about self-expression; life is about self-giving. Self-giving begins with gratitude. We are grateful to God for creating us in his own image, male and female. On Father's Day, we say, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love is everlasting."

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
12 Ordinary Time

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