12th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus Rules The Waves Of The Sea.”
The first reading is a kind of introduction to the Gospel, so that we can understand the symbolic meaning of the sea in the culture of the Jewish people. The Gospel shows us a Jesus who rules the waves of the sea and so reveals that he has the power of God.
Linked to this main symbolic element, we have other significant details: The night, the boat, the sleep of Jesus, the storm and the place where the boat is going. All these elements are rich in meaning and have applications to our own lives and the life of our communities.
The optimism that derives from the knowledge that Christ is always among us is also a theme of the second reading which speaks of the new interior reality of the Christian.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Job 38:1, 8-11.
Today we forsake the safety of land and take to the sea. The Jews were a nation of landlubbers who were uncomfortable with the sea. The wild sea reminded them of the primitive chaos which God had to control before the beginning of creation. Today’s first reading, Psalm and Gospel proclaim the awesome wonder of God’s power over the stormy sea.
The relationship between God and the sea in the Scriptures is ambiguous. In the first book of the Bible, God does not so much create the sea as bring it to order (Gn. 1:2). In its last book, there is no room for the sea in the new creation (Rv. 21:1). This reflects the mythology of the ancient Near East which identified the sea with the forces of evil. So does the description of the sea we find in Job; it is described as an unruly beast, to be kept in check by mist and cloud and confined behind a bolted gate like a wild animal. The people of Israel were reluctant sailors.
As Scripture develops, the combination of wind and water come to represent the work of the Holy Spirit. In Genesis the wind blew over the waters before God put order and fruitfulness into the world. In Exodus a strong easterly wind blew over the waters enabling Moses to lead the people out of slavery. It anticipates what Jesus said to Nicodemus of the need to be born again in the combination of water and divine breath.
Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31.
The Psalm is a hymn to the God who is always ready to come to the aid of his own in distress, especially seafarers in trouble. God rescues them and brings them to their destination. John would have had this Psalm in mind when he described how Jesus came to his disciples in crisis on the lake and brought them to harbor (Jn. 6:21).
The boat on stormy seas is an obvious metaphor for the plight of the Church in recent times. There is even a share of mutinous dissent. Master, do you not care? We are going down! There are critics who gloat over every wave which crashes on the deck: they look forward to the time when the Church will have sunk without a trace. The words of the Lord are reassuring: Quiet now! Be calm! Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?
2 Corinthians 5:14-17.
The central theme of this reading is that Christ’s death was sufficient to save all human beings. His example – Paul says – should encourage his disciples to follow him along the same way of total love and generosity towards his brothers and sisters.
The last sentence is very beautiful: “For anyone who is in Christ there is a new creation; the old order is gone, and a new being is there to see.” This is clearly an invitation to be optimistic, not to look back on the sins of the past life. “A new being is there to see,” so there is no reason to be anxious about our (or somebody else’s) sins and errors.
Paul continues to reflect his life as an apostle. Its ultimate inspiration was the personal love for Christ, who loved him and gave himself for him (Gal. 2:20); his Christianity was not a religion of doctrine or a book of rules, but one inspired by the love of this person. No longer did he live with the powers of unaided human nature, the flesh, but he was now in Christ, a new creation. Before his conversion, Paul looked forward to a new age in the future. His conversion taught him that this new age had already come through the death and Resurrection of Christ. The standards of the past no longer applied (Phil. 3:7). Let us look ahead, let us be guided by hope in Christ.
The story begins with two important details: the time of the episode and the direction of the journey.
In the evening, at the end of a day spent by Jesus announcing the kingdom of God, the disciples boat with the Master and begin the cross over to the other side. Where are they going to? The rest of the Gospel will tell us Mk. 5:1): the land of Gerasenes, a pagan territory. The Genasenes who were pig breeders could only be pagans, since the Jews considered pigs unclean.
The boat is clearly the Christian community which, at the end of the earthly life of Jesus, began its crossing towards the pagan lands of the world to take Christ to them. As we said already in the first reading, the sea is a symbol of all the forces opposed to God and humans. This terrible monster violently attacks the boat that carries Jesus and his disciples, and this attack probably represents the great problems that arose in the Church at the start of its mission. There were great divisions and disagreements. Even Peter and Paul once publicly attacked each other because they had differing ideas on how to evangelize the pagans (cf. Gal. 2:11-14).
The difficulty of the crossing was enhanced by another factor characteristic of dangerous situations: the darkness of the night. At the beginning of the world, records Genesis, before God defeated the sea, “there was darkness over the deep” (Gen 1:2).
During the dangerous crossing, Jesus sleeps, and his disciples desperately try to fight the sea on their own. This sleep is certainly symbolic: it signifies the death of Jesus. Mark is telling his community that Jesus is no longer among us in the way he used to be when he lived in this world. His disciples, represented by the apostles in the boat, feel lost and think that they must count only on themselves. This is not true; he is there with them and us, though apparently, indifferent to our desperate situations.
Are there not times when we feel absolutely alone and without any strength. At such moments, don’t we say: but where is God? Where is Christ our saviour? Why does he not intervene? Why does he not manifest his saving power? Why does he not help justice to prevail?
Yes, he seems truly to be asleep. We feel that he is very far away, if not completely absent. His silence disconcerts us and frightens us. Is the little faith we have in vain? What should we do? The Gospel tells us that we must not be astonished if these things take place. They are part of our life’s journey, and sooner or later we will be going through similar dramatic situations. We must not behave like the apostles who forgot that their Master was with them.
Jesus reproaches them as if they had no faith in him. Their and our mistakes are to only have recourse to him when things become desperate. One who has faith in Christ does not remember the Lord only when things go wrong.
There are Christians who pray to God only when they are victims of some misfortune or accident. They suddenly become capable of intense prayer, so that God may come to their rescue. Is this real faith? Up until now the disciples have seen Jesus’ power in the healing miracles and in his preaching they discover that he is Master of the waters, of the forces of evil. Let us never forget that Jesus, even if asleep, is always with his disciples.
Unlike the demons who confess Jesus as “Son of God”, the disciples and some of us are still wondering who Jesus really is. We are slow to perceive what others have so clearly perceived. The disciples recognise that they have not yet fully understood the person who disciples they have become. This applies to many of us as well. They want to know and understand him better. There is room for learning for all of us. Throughout the Gospels we will grow with the disciples just as they struggled to understand Jesus.
The story of the struggle of the disciples is story of our struggle as we try to grow in a relationship with Jesus.
Like the disciples, we do not always understand and are not always courageous enough either. Growth is always possible for us if we are open and willing to learn both from Jesus and from each other.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. …When we look at what is happening in the world, in our country, and in our families, don’t we get the impression that there is great disorder and even chaos? The powerful and the arrogant prevail. Everywhere we see injustice, calamity, disease and innocent people suffering. It is if the “stormy waters of the sea” were again flooding the earth? God asks us for our unconditional trust in his love. In spite of anything to the contrary, God still guides all the event of history and the life of each person.
Mon. … The Psalm is a tribute and a hymn to God who is always ready to come to the aid of his own in distress. We must always trust in the awesome power of God’s love over the stormy seas in our lives.
Tues. … This is clearly an invitation from Paul to be optimistic, not to look back on the sins of the past life. “A new being is there to see,” so there is no reason to be anxious about our (or somebody else’s) sins and errors.
Wed. … The boat on stormy seas is an obvious metaphor for the plight of the Church in recent times. There is even a share of mutinous dissent. Master, do you not care? We are going down! There are critics who gloat over every wave which crashes on the deck: they look forward to the time when the Church will have sunk without a trace. The words of the Lord are reassuring: Quiet now! Be calm! Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?
Thurs. … Are there not times when we feel absolutely alone and without any strength. At such moments, don’t we say: but where is God? Where is Christ our saviour? Why does he not intervene? Why does he not manifest his saving power? Why does he not help justice to prevail? Is the little faith we have in vain? What should we do? The Gospel tells us that we must not be astonished if these things take place. They are part of our life’s journey, and sooner or later we will be going through similar dramatic situations. We must not behave like the apostles who forgot that their Master was with them.
Frid. … Are we perhaps like certain Christians who only pray to God when they are victims of some misfortune or accident. They then suddenly become capable of intense prayer, so that God may come to their rescue. Is this real faith? Up until now the disciples have seen Jesus’ power in the healing miracles and in his preaching. Now they discover that he is Master of the waters, of the forces of evil. Let us never forget that Jesus, even if asleep, is always with his disciples.
Sat. … We are slow to perceive what others have so clearly perceived. Unlike the demons who confess Jesus as “Son of God”, the disciples and some of us are still wondering who Jesus really is. The lessons in the readings today are crystal clear: trust in God. We may not be able to answer all life’s questions or understand reasons why, or solve life’s problems, but we can know this: no storm, no calamity, nothing whatsoever will thwart God’s loving plan for those who trust in him.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Lord God, help us through Your word and grace to trust in Your love and spiritual protection no matter what calamities and trials may befall us. May we always recognise those footsteps that are walking beside us. When we see only one set we will understand that it was during the difficult times in our lives when You Carried us.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.