12th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle B)

Readings:
Job 38:1, 8-11
Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31
2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Mark 4:35-41

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

God's divine plan for mankind is revealed in the two Testaments and that is why we reread and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of the Readings: Do You Not Yet Have Faith?
Jesus' question to the Apostles in today's Gospel Reading is the focus of the Sunday liturgies for the remainder of the Sundays in Ordinary Time prior to Advent.  In the Gospel Readings, we follow in the footsteps of the Apostles as they (and we) experience His words and wondrous deeds, as they (and we) come to have a deeper personal relationship with Jesus, and as they (and we) come to believe He is the Messiah promised by the prophets.

In the First Reading Job has been lamenting his personal suffering when God reminds Job that he needs to have faith in the God of Creation who formed the seas.  In the psalm, sailors see the wondrous works of God in the raging sea and in His power to bring them to salvation through the midst of the storm, and in the Second Reading St. Paul speaks of Jesus' power to give new life to those who accept Him as Lord and Savior.  In the Gospel Reading, we hear of the mighty works of God the Son as Jesus calms a storm on the Sea of Galilee and asks His disciples "Do you not yet have faith?" meaning do they not yet recognize His true identity as the divine Messiah who has the power to calm the sea, to raise the dead, to forgive men their sins, and whose greatest miracle will be raising them to new life in a new creation.

The First Reading Job 38:1, 8-11 ~ The Lord of Creation who Harnessed the Sea
1 The LORD addressed Job out of the storm [whirlwind] and said: 8 Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; 9 when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands?  10 When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, 11 and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

In a series of dialogues, Job and his friends have discussed the mystery of human suffering.  Job and his friends are not able to come up with an adequate answer to the question: "Why must a just man suffer" as Job has suffered.  Finally, Yahweh answers their question by speaking out of the storm and asks Job: "Who rules the sea?" which is another way of asking "Job, do you not have faith in Me, the God of Creation?"

God is the Lord of all Creation.  He has the power to do things that human beings cannot fully understand or explain.  God is telling Job that he needs to remember this and to have faith.  The experience of the just man Job in his suffering and God's omnificence in commanding the sea foreshadows the same themes in the Gospels.  Jesus not only shows the same power over the sea in two miracles (e.g., Mt 8:24-27; 14:24-32; Mk 4:35-41; 6:45-52), but Jesus is the one truly righteous/just, sinless man who suffers for the sins of mankind.  Jesus suffers in His Passion and offers His life in a self-sacrifice that is the will of God in His plan to bring about mankind's redemption from sin and death.  But God was with Jesus in the midst of His suffering, and He was also with Job.  In both cases, the obedience of Jesus in accepting His suffering and the faith of Job in spite of his suffering led to the defeat of Satan and resulted in God raising them up—Job was rewarded with a new life and blessings that restored everything that had been taken from him, and Jesus was resurrected in glory, having fulfilled His mission to establish His Kingdom of the Church and to bring the gift of salvation to mankind.

Responsorial Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31 ~ God commands the Sea
The response is: "Give thanks to the Lord, his love is everlasting."  Or "Alleluia."
23 They who sailed the sea in ships, trading on the deep waters, 24 these saw the works of the LORD and his wonders in the abyss.
Response:
25 His command raised up a storm wind which tossed its waves on high.  26 They mounted up to heaven; they sank to the depths; their hearts melted away in their plight.
Response:
28 They cried to the LORD in their distress; from their straits he rescued them, 29 he hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled.
Response:
30 They rejoiced that they were calmed, and he brought them to their desired haven.  31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his kindness and his wondrous deeds to the children of men.
Response:

The psalmist explains how those who sail the seas for a living witness the power of God in the immense surging waves of the sea.  Verses 25-26 offer a poetic image of the rising and falling of waves in a storm at sea as a ship climbs to the crest of one wave only to slide down the back of the wave into what feels the ship being swallowed into the depths of the sea.  In such a terrifying trial, men of faith cry out to God, and God in His mercy hears them.  He quiets the raging waters of the sea and brings the ship to a safe harbor.  The Psalmist writes that Sailors who have experienced God's mercy in this way should give thanks to God and tell others of God's compassion for them in the midst of the storm.

This describes exactly what the Apostles experienced in today's Gospel Reading.  One wonders if they thought of this psalm as the sea raged and they were fearful the ship might sink in the waves.  But God the Son heard their cries, calmed the sea, and brought them to safe harbor.  The psalm also is a metaphor for life.  There are times when life overwhelms us, and we fear we cannot survive.  It is then that our faith is put to the test just as Job's faith was put to the test.  In those times, we must call upon the Lord God and put our faith and hope in Him, knowing that He has the power to save us and not even the sea can oppose Him.  

The Second Reading 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ~ A New Creation in Christ Jesus
Brothers and sisters: 14 The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died.  15 He 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.  16 Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.  17 So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

In verse 14 St. Paul assures the Christians of Corinth that they have all died with Christ in the waters of Christian Baptism and have been raised up out of the waters to new life, just as Jesus was raised from the dead.  Jesus died so that they might truly live in a resurrected life that defies the power of physical death.  St. Paul tells them that the death of Jesus (described in verses 14-15) produces the new order of a new creation (verse 17), and a new perspective of life in which life in the flesh is replaced by life in the Spirit.  It is a new creation and a new order created by Christ through a new Covenant in His blood, as He announced at the Last Supper (Lk 22:19-20).

The Gospel of Mark 4:35-41 ~ Jesus Calms the Storm
35 On that day, as evening drew on, he said to them, "Let us cross to the other side."  36 Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was.  And other boats were with him.  37 A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.  38 Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.  They woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"  39 He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!"  The wind ceased and there was great calm.  40 Then he asked the, "Why are you terrified?  Do you not yet have faith?"  41 They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?"

Jesus suggests to the Apostles that they sail to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.  They are probably in the boats owned by Peter, his brother Andrew, and James and John Zebedee.  Sudden storms springing up on the Sea of Galilee are very common, and without warning a storm overtakes the boats.  The Apostles cry out to Jesus, who is asleep in the stern.  Upon waking and seeing their peril, Jesus calms the storm.  This miracle is a private sign for the disciples and is another event that points to a revelation about Jesus' true identity.  Only God can control nature; Jesus' miracle in quieting the storm points to His divinity. 

When Jesus calms the storm He asks His disciples, "Do you not yet have faith?"  Jesus is asking if they do not yet recognize His true identity and have faith that He is the divine Messiah.  This will be the lingering question from this event until after the Resurrection when Thomas confesses, "My Lord and my God!"  The first sign of His divinity was when Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man and the Pharisees asked: "Who but God can forgive sins?" (Mk 2:7).  The answer to that question, and to the Apostles' rhetorical question: "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?" in verse 41, is that only God can forgive sins and control the forces of nature. 

The Gospel of Mark records Jesus' healing miracles (Mk 1:29-31, 40-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-6; 5:25-34; 7:31-37; 8:22-26; 9:14-29; 10:22-26), delivering people from demon possession (Mk 1:21-27; 5:1-20; 7:24-30; 9:14-29), His victory over hostile wills (Mk 11:15-16), raising the dead (Mk 5:22-24, 35-43), and 5 miracles that defy natural law and point to His divinity:

  1. Calming the storm at sea (Mk 4:35-41)
  2. Feeding the five thousand (Mk 6:34-44)
  3. Walking on the water and calming the storm (Mk 6:45-52)
  4. Feeding the four thousand (Mk 8:1-9)
  5. Cursing the fruitless fig tree that immediately withered (Mk 11:12-14)

Notice that there is an echo of the Book of Jonah in the calming the sea in today's Gospel.  Like Jonah, Jesus was asleep as the storm was raging and had to be awakened, and all the others on the boat were in fear for their lives (Jonah 1:5-6; Mk 4:38).  In Jonah's story it is God who calms the sea and saves those on the boat, and in Mark's story, it is God the Son who calms the storm and saves the Apostles.  Jesus names the prophet Jonah more times than any other prophet in the Gospels, and He points to Jonah's experience being swallowed by the great fish and then released as a sign of His death and resurrection.  And in Matthew 12:41, speaking of Jonah's conversion of the Ninevites and their salvation, Jesus tells the Jews: "...and look, there is something greater than Jonah here", referring to Himself.  The message for us is: if God can control the wind and sea, He is also able to save those who have faith and trust in Him in the midst of the storms of life; He will never abandon us if we only have faith.

Catechism References:
2 Corinthians 5:14 (CCC 616, 851); 5:15 (CCC 605, 655, 1269); 5:17 (CCC 1214, 1265)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2015