Lectio Divina for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 20, 2021

Lectio Divina for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 20, 2021

By David Kilby

Lectio Divina for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 20, 2021


READ

Mark 4:35-41


On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples:
“Let us cross to the other side.”
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat,
so that it was already filling up.
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?”
He woke up,
rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
Do you not yet have faith?”
They were filled with great awe and said to one another,
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”


MEDITATE


“Let us cross to the other side.”


What sea is God telling me to cross over today? What stormy weather is he telling me to not fear? In hindsight, I can say the disciples were foolish to fear the storm since Jesus was with them, but I am just as doubtful that the Lord will come to my rescue in my times of trouble. Sometimes he doesn’t, true. But despite it all, something brought me back to him today, and in the end that’s all that matters. I often find myself on the seashore of doubt wondering how to cross the sea. One way or another though, the Lord gets me across to the other side where faith abides.


“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”


God allows squalls and all kinds of violent events to occur in our lives. Does he not care about the danger they present to us? Many have died in natural disasters, leaving people to ask “Why would God do this?” Answers to that question range from something about God’s permissive will to evil--including natural evils like hurricanes--being nothing but a privation of good. Those answers never sufficed for me though. Something else is going on. We can consult Job, who was told by God that he cannot possibly understand God’s ways. There is a piece of truth to all of these answers, and bringing them together helps me see the whole picture better. God’s answer to the disciples is “Yes, I do care.” It may be hard to extrapolate that answer to every natural disaster in the history of mankind, but it is the truth. In this Gospel passage, the second person of the Trinity is right there, and he answers by saving the disciples from danger. If we were to cry out to God in a similar situation, when our lives were seriously in peril, we have to believe that God would save us. Have faith and it will happen. 


He … rebuked the wind


Many pagan polytheistic religions made gods out of natural phenomena like the sea and storms. Jesus shows his dominion over them here. More interestingly though, he doesn’t manually stop the wind. He “rebukes” it, as if the wind has a personality of its own that needs to be put in check. It’s almost a nod to the polytheistic religions that personify aspects of nature. Christianity does not completely dismiss that notion. In fact, Christians believe there is an entire spiritual realm with angels that have specific roles in nature. One of the choirs of angels is “dominions”, which is to say they have dominion over certain things. God has dominion over them, but in a very real sense--meaning not metaphorically speaking--God has delegated the governing of the weather to certain angels. The pagan religions recognized the power of these angels and called them gods. Christ and the apostles after him taught that there is one God who governs and has dominion over all of them. Judaism also taught this before Christ though, so why were the apostles so perplexed by Jesus rebuking the wind? It’s because they had not yet come to believe that Jesus was God. Also, with the coming of Christ came the commission to spread knowledge of the one true God to the ends of the earth. Before Christ, God was training a nation to be the bearers of his word. God’s miracles in the Old Testament had a focused directive to prepare the way for the Messiah. Now that he has come, God’s miracles are setting the stage for the universal proclamation that this God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph is not just the God of the Jews but the God of the wind, the sea, all the earth, and all people.  


“Quiet!  Be still!”


Amazingly, Christ demonstrates his power not by causing a storm but by stopping it. In sci-fi and fantasy movies we watch the villains and even the heroes show off their great strength and superpowers by shooting lightning from their hands, blowing over tall structures, and whatnot, but Jesus does the opposite. He shows how he is more powerful than the storm by calming it. His action presents an interesting question: What or who is more powerful, one who can cause the skies to gather in ominous clouds, making the rain and wind capsize boats; or the one who can stop such a storm with his words alone? Jesus is not just demonstrating his power though. In a way, this Gospel passage hearkens back to Elijah’s encounter with God in the cave:


Then a very strong wind blew until it caused the mountains to fall apart and large rocks to break in front of the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a quiet, gentle sound. When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave (1 Kings 19:11-13).


So often we wait for God to do something to demonstrate that he is here with us. But God is not present in what he does as much as he is present in who he is. And when you love someone, who they are is enough. The person doesn’t have to do anything for you to love them. It’s the same way with God. He loves us for who we are, and he wants us to do the same. He wants to be loved for who he is. Sometimes he has to calm the storms in our lives until there is nothing left but the quiet and the stillness because that is where he dwells. 


“Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”


Pope St. John Paul II is known for often saying “Be not afraid” because it’s fear that so often gets in the way of faith. I fear what other people may think if I am labeled Christian. I fear that God will let me down if I have faith in him. I fear that faith will fool me into thinking God made something happen when it was just a matter of random events and coincidences. But what if I did just let go and believe that it is actually God who is behind everything that happens? What if my prayers to him acknowledged this, thanked him for all the good things that happened, and asked him to shower his grace upon my life and my loved ones? Will that really make a difference? Or will the wheel of life spin with the same amount of randomness, having the same odds and the same number of coincidences? Christ says if we have faith as small as a mustard seed we could move mountains. When Peter walks on water then starts to drown, Christ pulls him up and says “Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Is faith really the missing element in our lives that keeps us from rising to new heights? If I let go and let God, would my life really start to change in miraculous ways like Jesus seems to be suggesting here? There’s only one way to find out: have faith. 


PRAY


Lord Jesus, you are here with us even when the storms rage around us. Give us the gift of faith so we can trust in you. Quell the squalls in my heart as well, the doubts screaming that you do not love me. You are the Lord of all the universe. Help me believe it. In Jesus’ name. Amen


LISTEN


“Quiet!  Be still!” Jesus says in this week’s Gospel. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Contemplation is often forgotten when it comes to praying. We want to recite the prayers we know and spill our hearts, but let’s not forget the importance of doing nothing but listening. We can hear God best when we strip away all the distractions in our lives, including our own thoughts and words.

 

David Kilby is a freelancer writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.

 

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