Sunday Homilies-Fr. Luke Uebler

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet!  Be still!”  The wind ceased and there was great calm.  Words from our Gospel today from the 4th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.

The Gospel we heard from today has become one of my absolute favorite Scripture passages over the years.  There is something for everyone in it.  Last Thursday with our Faith Formation Catechists, we prayed over this passage in a method called Lectio Divina, and it was interesting to hear how different lines from the Gospel stood out to us and how God spoke to us in different ways.  When hearing the words, there was a great calm, one person felt the peace of God dwelling with them.  Some were thinking of how they left the crowd like the disciples did, and some reflected upon how they have taken Jesus with them in their lives in their journey of faith.  What stood out to someone was the idea that Jesus was asleep, seemingly unconcerned about the events going on in the world but it was also said that even Jesus, true God and true man needs his rest too.  And someone was drawn to the fact that he woke up and our all-powerful God was roused to action.  There are more ways in which God speaks to us through this passage.  Quite often, I find myself using it in the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick with someone, not because it is a healing miracle, but because it speaks to us about the storms that we are made to experience in our lives and our relationship with God in the midst of it all.  Last year on March 27th, just as the effects of the pandemic were beginning to be felt in earnest worldwide, Pope Francis stood alone in St. Peter’s square, and he proclaimed this very Gospel, and he reflected on this passage in what is called an Ubi et Orbi Message, to Rome and to the World.  It was incredibly powerful, and especially now as we are beginning to come out of this pandemic here, I want to share his words with you once more which still speak to us today about how we are to approach the storms in our lives.  When reflecting on this passage, he had this to say:

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this.  For weeks now, it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. [I would ask, do you remember, like Pearl Harbor, the JFK Assassination, the Challenger Explosion, 9/11… do you remember where you were and what you were doing and how you felt when the world was interrupted by the Coronavirus or these other events? The Pope continues:] Like the disciples in the Gospel, we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm… Just like those disciples, [we too cried out] “We are perishing.”

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story.  What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he is in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust?

They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them.  [It is the same with the person of Job from our first reading who questions God’s providence amidst the storm and the innocent suffering he was facing.]  One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

[The pope says:] The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas [about life] and makes us forgetful of what nourishes people’s souls; we find that all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our humanity.  [The Pope says,] we have deprived ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.  We have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. [I would add that all of us can think of other storms that have been brewing in our own personal lives whether it’s in our broken relationships, our financial uncertainties, with our divisive politics, over our unsettled identities.  The Pope warns us that:]  We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck.  Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

[I believe Pope Francis was very wise in what he had said.  Now, we are beginning to see some calm and peace from the storm that is the pandemic and we thank God for that and we thank God for the people God has sent to help us make it through so far…  But we would be foolish to think that we have arrived.  It is a storm that rages on as boats in other countries are navigating through their worst moments yet.  It is a storm that rages on as long as people remain on the margins and are neglected and don’t have access to basic human needs.  It is a storm that disturbs our families with grief still as we mourn those who have been lost at sea.  And we must realize that there are other storms, personal storms, raging in each of our lives too even if no one else knows anything about them.  And in this life, we are all in this boat together.

Like our first reading,] the Lord [speaks to us out of the storm and] invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a heading: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us look to the horizon and allow our hope to be rekindled.  [For our Lord and savior] will not leave us at the mercy of the storm [For with Jesus in our boat, we will get safely to that farther shore either in this world or the one to come].[1]

 

[1] Quoted extensively from Pope Francis, Ubi et Orbi Homily, March 27, 2020, Vatican Square, Accessed June 18, 2021, https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2020/documents/papa-francesco_20200327_omelia-epidemia.html