This homily was not delivered as prepared. I was serving the Maronite Community in Jupiter, Florida on June 20, 2021
Job 38, 1, 8-11 + Psalm 107 + 2 Corinthians 5,14-17 + Mark 4, 35-41
Just in case you like trivia, the surface of the lake they are crossing is 682 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by mountains on all sides that are between 1000 and 2000 feet above the lake. Warm air on the water and cold air on the mountains just a few miles away can get very turbulent very fast. The cool air falls down the sides of the mountains and mixes with the warm wet air at which point you are going to have a storm. It’s not unusual, but not always predictable without the tool of doppler radar that we have today. But these are not amateurs in that boat. They have lived there and made their living off that lake all their lives. For them to be challenged by this storm says something about its violence. They want another hand on the oars or trimming the sails, and that extra pair of hands is asleep. They don’t like it. So, they wake him up to lend a hand.
When Mark tells us that they were awestruck and terrified, I think they were more afraid of what he did than they were of the storm. It was absolutely unnatural for someone to do what he did. I find it interesting to know (another matter of trivia) that the Greek word Mark uses means more than “woke up.” It literally means “getting up” – it implies that Jesus stood up using his full stature, rising to his full height in the stern of the boat which is taking on water as the wave break over it. He confronts the power of the wind and the waves stirring up images from the Old Testament (which those apostles knew very well): images of God’s power over the raging waters which we hear in our Psalm and in the First Reading today.
Suddenly, those men in the boat are more struck by the power of their companion than they were by the wind and the sea. “Woah!” they had to have thought. Who is this? For Mark, “this” is the one who brings God’s power and providence to human needs.
In this fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, there seems to be no purpose in making that trip to the other side. The point of this episode then is what happened on the way, not the destination. We don’t even know where they going on the other side nor why except for Mark to give us this revelation and leave us as amazed and perhaps as stunned as those men in the boat. Once the storm has calmed down at the command of Jesus, he turns to the storm in the boat to ask why they have allowed cowardice (which is really the word Mark uses in Greek) to overpower their faith. They wanted another hand on the oars. They got something else. They were saved in an unexpected way.
So, it shall probably be for all of us who sometimes let cowardice take control of our lives. Sometimes when we want God to do something our way, it works out another way. They end up asking: “Who is this?” which is exactly what Mark wants us all to ask. Like those men in that boat, we’re in the boat of life that rocks and rolls through a lot of storms. We sometimes, all of us, think of God with a very limited imagination that does not allow God to work in ways beyond what we can think of.
God has made us to be capable of more. God has sent his only begotten son to push our imaginations to the limit and to strengthen us when we are afraid. This Gospel invites us into a deeper reflection on the power of God that is always at work through faith in us. Jesus invites us to look at anything that might frighten us with the eyes of faith replacing fear with wonder and awe at what God has done, continues to do in our lives and in this world.