12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. June 20, 2015.
Job 38:1, 8-11; 2Cor 5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41
Crossing to the other side
“Let us cross to the other side.”
What are some things that cause you some level of fear in this life? Typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, airline accidents, terminal sickness, etc. These may make it to the top of your own list.
Last week, I added one unlikely item to my own list of scary things – pulling wisdom teeth. I read of 17-year old Sydney Galleger in Minnesota who had gone to the dentist to pull her wisdom teeth when she developed an infection, went into cardiac arrest and died a few days later after a valiant battle for her life. As I pray for this young woman and her grieving family, I realize that I never thought that a routine dental procedure like pulling wisdom teeth would be so life-endangering. It has now made it to my own list and I will surely remember this when next I visit the dentist!
The list of things that terrify us in this life continues to grow. But the question that we ought to ask ourselves is if we are correspondingly growing in our faith as we notice that the list of things that terrify us is growing. If we are not growing in our faith as we ought, we will inevitably be overcome by our growing fears.
St. Paul reminds us in the First Reading of one of the consequences of Christ’s death: “He (Christ) indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” By baptism, we are both assimilated into the death of Christ and brought into this relationship with Him by faith. Our faith in Christ, being a relationship with a divine person, always has room for growth. If our relationship with Christ by faith is founded in His overcoming the terrifying reality of death on the Cross so as to bring us into this relationship, our consistent growth in this relationship becomes the only path for us to overcome the growing causes of fear in our world.
Jesus’ question to the terrified disciples in today’s Gospel, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” seems to indicate that the disciples did not have faith. In reality they had faith enough to leave all and follow Christ. (Cf Mt 19:27) They had the faith to take Him in the boat “just as He was.” They had faith to obey His command, “Let us cross to the other side.” They surely had faith but their faith was not growing as it should. They had faith in Him as long as the boat was safe and at shore but once the boat “was already filling up” in deep waters, their fear of perishing in the storm became greater than their confidence in the presence of Christ with them. While their faith became stunted, their fear grew to the point that they panicked and even doubted the Lord’s care and love for them, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing.” With a faith that was not growing, they were overcome with fear.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how are we growing in our faith that we received in baptism? Is our faith still at the level of mere ascent to creeds and doctrines of the faith? Is our faith stuck in the level of legalistic and external practices of our faith or our conforming to moral standards? Or are we also continuously growing in our level of trust in the One who died and rose from the dead so that we no longer live for ourselves but for Him? Beginning with our adherence to the articles of faith and the actual living out of our faith in daily life, we are also to continuously grow in our inner relationship with Christ Jesus, entrusting ourselves with confidence to Him in good or bad times. This is the only way that we can override the tide of fear in this world.
Today’s reading shows us some ways of growing in our faith in the midst of all these things that cause us fear. The first step is continuous prayer. Prayer is both an expression of our relationship with God and an avenue for Jesus to strengthen that relationship with Him. Our perseverance in prayer basically says, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” It may even be the imperfect prayer of the disciples in today’s Gospel, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Such a prayer from the heart will never go unanswered. Jesus will surely respond to such prayer by deepening our relationship with Jesus.
Secondly, we listen to God’s words to us, believe in His words, and act on His words to us. We grow in our intimacy with Christ through our participation in Mary’s obedience of faith. In Jesus’ words, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.”(Mk 3:35) The faith by which the Virgin of Nazareth responded to the awe-inspiring Angel Gabriel and his overwhelming message at the Annunciation, “Behold, the Handmaid of the Lord,” grew constantly till she could stand silently at the foot of the Cross and still believe in Jesus as her Son and God. No fear could overcome this Immaculate Heart because she grew in her relationship with Jesus by her constant obedience of faith even in frightening conditions.
Thirdly, we choose not to live for ourselves but for God and for others. A self-centered life is fertile ground for all types of fears and anxieties to breed and grow. But a life lived in love and service of God and neighbor deepens our relationship with the indwelling Good Shepherd and diminishes our fears.
Fourthly, we accept the entire faith of the Church and the sacramental means of salvation that she offers to us. The boat threatened by the waves while Jesus slept is an apt image of the Church founded on the foundation of the Apostles. This Church is constantly facing storms in her pilgrimage and sometimes the noise from the world and the cries of fear from within seems to quench any sense of Jesus Christ as the invisible Head and captain of the ship. In a world that is constantly changing and lacking moral guideposts, an attitude of picking and choosing only what suits our taste and fancy regarding our Catholic faith and morals basically condemns us to crippling fears.
With the sacrament of Confession, we honestly confess our sins and allow Jesus to restore our relationship with Him. In the sacrament of the Eucharist, our relationship with Him is strengthened, and our hope deepened. With frequent use of these sacraments, how then can we be overcome with fear?
Lastly, we must prepare to face the storms and challenges of life with courage. The storms of life provide a privileged time for the development of our faith. It might be the storms of temptations, worries about the future, health issues, career or relationship problems etc. Storms of life challenge our shallow knowledge of Christ and make us seek to know Him better. Like the disciples after the storm, we begin to ask questions about Jesus that we never asked before: “Who then is this whom even the wind and sea obey?”
In a way, at the moment of our baptism, when we entered into this relationship with Him by faith, Jesus said to each one of us, “Let us cross to the other side.” These words of Jesus are more than a command to us His disciples. It is also a solemn pledge of His own abiding presence with us throughout our journey to the other side of life. “Let us” indicates His enduring relationship with us, that we will never travel alone but that He will be with us through all the scary stages of this earthly journey. With Him at our side, and with our due cooperation, our relationship with Him will only grow stronger through the storms of this life until we arrive at the shores of eternity.
In our encounter with Him in today’s Eucharist, He repeats the command and pledge to us, “Let us cross to the other side.” Ever new frightening things and situations will surely never be lacking in this world. Remember, “The victory that conquers the world is our faith.”(1Jn 5:4) We already have this faith from the gift of baptism and this relationship with Christ strains to grow in intensity in good or bad times. If we use all that He has offered to us to constantly grow in our relationship with Him, we will indeed overcome all fears in this life and arrive at the other side with Him, the side of endless glory, the only place where there will be no more fear.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!