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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 |  The Peace Pulpit

The Gospel passage ends with a very
important question: Who can this be that the wind and the sea obey him? It
was a question that Mark, the Gospel writer, wanted the community of his
day to reflect on and, of course, it’s a question for all of us to reflect
on also. Often we think of the miracle stories in the Gospel as simply
that, miracle stories, stories of wondrous things that Jesus could do. And
sometimes we use them to prove that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, what
these miracle accounts are, and this one certainly is, are a way of
teaching. Mark is trying to teach his community, and to teach us, that we
must reflect deeply on who Jesus really is. The wind and the sea obey
him.



Right away, the hearers of Mark’s time would be very mindful of what
they knew from their Hebrew Scriptures -- that passage from Job that we
heard today. “Who shut the sea behind closed doors when it burst forth
from the womb, when I made the clouds its garments and thick darkness its
swaddling clothes, when I set its limits with doors and bars in place?”
Who alone has dominion or control over the elements, the world, the wind,
the sea? Job, of course, is reflecting what you read in the very beginning
of the Hebrew Scriptures in the book of Genesis: In the beginning when God
began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth had no form, it was
void; it was chaos, formless; but the Spirit of God hovered over the
water. God said, “Let there be a firm ceiling between the waters and let
it separate waters from waters.” So God made the ceiling and separated the
waters below it from the waters above it. God was the one who had control
over the waters of the earth, the sea, the ocean, the wind, the elements.
God and God alone.

And so for the question, Who could this be?, Mark is urging his readers
to remember and to act upon the truth -- this is God! This is God in their
midst. Perhaps it was especially difficult for them because some of those
to whom Mark was writing had known Jesus as a human, one like them in
every way. They’d seen him weep, they’d seen him laugh, they’d seen him
get tired, they’d seen him become angry. He was fully human. But now they
have to understand he is God, and this is what we need to understand also
and not just take it for granted. Jesus is the son of God. We really have
to let that enter deeply into our awareness, that Jesus who is our
brother, who is like us in every way except sin, this Jesus is the Son of
God.

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And as we reflect upon that, we also then experience with the disciples
how Jesus is always in our midst, the Son of God. Even though Jesus was
sleeping in the boat, he was with them, and they had no cause for fear, no
cause for concern, no cause to be upset. He was with them.


And the same thing is true for us. When Mark wrote, he wrote at a time
when the church was in great travail. The persecutions of Nero had
started, and it was also a time when there were divisions within the
church. Paul writing to the church at Corinth had to rebuke them, because
some were following one person, others following another person. They had
factions. They were divided. Paul himself experienced, when he went from
place to place, hostilities from those who did not want to hear the word
he was preaching. I’m sure that the early Christians must have wondered at
times: Where is God? What’s happening to our church?


And isn’t it true for us that some of the same things are happening? We
find ourselves in a church were there are divisions. Sometimes it’s very
distressing. Some who feel that we’re not being progressive enough, others
who feel we’ve moved too far, too fast and so there’s reaction setting in
and sometimes we get discouraged about this and we wonder, “Well, where is
God, where is Jesus?” But today’s Gospel assures us that Jesus is in our
midst. And just as Jesus could stand up and calm the seas and calm the
winds, bring peace, that same Jesus is with us and can do the same
thing.


But when we listen to what St. Paul tell us today we become aware again
that it’s going to be Jesus doing miraculous things, coming back in a
powerful way and being visibly present among us. St. Paul reminds us,
“Whoever is in Christ is a new creation. For that one, the old things have
passed away, a new world has come. All of this is the work of God who in
Christ reconciles us to God.” And God has entrusted to us this ministry of
reconciliation.


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In a few moments, we’re going to baptize Scarlet Ann, a tiny little
baby who is going to become this new creation. The commitment, as she
grows up, is to be a minister of reconciliation, to take on this new
creation who is Jesus, to become one in Jesus. But all of us are already
baptized. We’ve already been called to become a new creation, to become
the ones who reach out as Jesus did, to reconcile, to bring back, to calm
the storms and the seas, the wind. Certainly those first disciples took
great comfort when Jesus stood up and calmed everything. We are the ones
now who are to come forward, to try to bring calmness and peace into our
world, to be ministers of reconciliation. It’s in the church that we need
to do this.


Just yesterday I was invited to carry out a responsibility to talk at a
meeting of gay and lesbian people. This is a big division in our church.
These are people who feel very much rejected by the community of
disciples. And we are that community. It’s very difficult for them to come
into a Catholic church, a Christian church, without checking ahead of
time. Will it be a friendly community or will they be hostile to us? How
evil that is, that anyone should feel rejected when he or she comes into a
community of disciples of Jesus. We haven’t heard the Word. We haven’t
recognized who Jesus really is. We haven’t accepted our call to be
reconcilers, to be those who bring peace and calmness as Jesus did. Well
that kind of situation exists in our church.


The other experience that I’ve had very recently and that I’ve spoken
about before is my becoming involved with survivors of sexual abuse in the
church. To me this is one of the worst situations of alienation that I can
think of. An innocent child is abused by someone who represents God for
that child, and then later the victim is treated like the enemy. I’ve had
hundreds of people contact me and tell me their stories, of how they have
tried to be reconnected with the church, to rebuild their faith, their
confidence in the church, and even more, their faith and confidence in
God. But they’ve been pushed away. Instead of the church reaching out to
draw them in, they’ve been pushed away in the legal process that makes
them enemies. That’s a situation which probably most of us would not have
much occasion to reach out to an individual person who is a survivor.
Perhaps some of us do. But certainly what all of us could do is to pray
that within our church, and especially the leadership of our church,
there’ll be a change of heart.


I just recently spoke to the committee of bishops that oversees what we
call “protecting our children.” And I was trying to get across this point.
We have to reach out to these survivors. So one of the bishops said to me,
“Well, we live in this country where the system of law is adversarial. We
have to accept that.” What a failure, it seems to me, that describes. That
we accept, because we live in a country where the system of law is
adversarial, that these victims become our enemies, adversaries. So we
must pray that there’ll be a change in our church so that there will be a
reaching out, a reconciling. That we can bring calmness and peace and love
where there’s been so much hurt and pain and suffering and terrible
alienation.


Each one of us is called to become that new creation, to grow into the
fullness of who we are as disciples of Jesus, who live with Jesus within
us. Each of us is called to carry on his work. Jesus is in our midst.
That’s what we hear so powerfully in the Gospel -- that Jesus is in our
midst, most of all because Jesus lives within each one of us. This morning
as we witness this baptism and this little baby is made a new creation, my
hope is that each of us will renew our own commitment to grow as a
disciple of Jesus, to grow more fully into him, to carry on his work. We
must stand up as Jesus did in the boat and be those who reach out to calm
the storm, to end the factions, to bring reconciliation, to bring peace.
As we do that, what Jesus did long ago in that boat in the Sea of Galilee
will begin to happen within our community more and more. The winds will be
calm and peace will happen, reconciliation will come about, our church
will grow in love.

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