12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
at St. Mary’s in Salem
19-20 June 2021
2 Cor 5:14-17
Every place in the world where I have lived has celebrated both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I would say that in most countries Mother’s Day falls on about the same Sunday in May, but Father’s Day varies quite a bit from country to country. For instance, in Italy Father’s Day is always observed on the Feast of St. Joseph, on March 19, which is very Catholic and very appropriate. So, first off today, I would like to extend best wishes to all dads on this their day and with June bind it and them to Christ in His Sacred Heart.
Talking with the plumber who came to install my water heater in Sioux Falls the other day, he was quite insistent on how desperately American society needs integral families with both a mother and a father. He put the accent on the importance of fathers in raising children and I will do it too. May God bless our fathers those living and those who have preceded us in death. Know of your value, dads, after the example of St. Joseph, to found and protect the family! O St. Joseph, we entrust our fathers to your powerful intercession. Through these men, strengthen our families and prosper the life of your Church!
Praised be Jesus Christ!
“Who shut within doors the sea…? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: This far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!”
In the Old Testament Book of Job, God Almighty challenges the holy man Job, demanding that he back down on his complaining about being unjustly punished in this life. The Lord required of Job that he acknowledge God for Who He is, the Almighty, the only one who keeps the rolling and roaring floods under lock and key. Man cannot hold God to account for the misfortune we experience in life, even when it seems unjust, as it certainly did in the case of Job. The Lord commands the wind and the waves, besides having brought into being all that there is.
This first reading for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time gives us the proper context to understand then what happens in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus calms the storm on the lake and the men in the boat are confronted with a reality far beyond their life’s experience. All of a sudden, they realize that they can see God. The Lord Jesus calms the storm by a simple command, and He teaches them something that up until that moment they had not reckoned with in terms of their teacher.
It is a rhetorical question since the reality is right there staring them in the face. They do not need anybody to answer it for them. “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Beyond a shadow of a doubt Jesus cannot be anyone other than God Himself.
The Book of Job presented God’s People in the Old Testament with a monstrous challenge. For just about everyone back then it challenged the common assumption that God punishes evil and rewards good already in this life. Thanks to the scandal of Job’s terrible suffering, believers could no longer ignore or explain away the problem of evil but had to face the age-old question. Holy Scripture deprived them of their supposed common wisdom, that the one who suffers must have some hidden fault or crime? No, that is not how life works! Here in the Bible, we have the question posed in the extreme case of the good and righteous man, seemingly confirmed as such by God Who has so blessed Job up until this point in his life. How is it that all of a sudden then God permits the just man, the truly holy man to suffer, taking everything away from him: great wealth, even basic property, his family, his physical health and even his personal dignity or self-respect?
The expression “It is not fair!” sort of sums up the mentality back then and even now. Most of us may have met someone or may even have a family member who is at odds with God because they are convinced that God is to blame for the suffering which they do not deserve. “It is not fair!” they cry and sometimes turn their back on God, maybe even in anger. The point is, that they make too little of the consequences of the sin of our first parents, of Adam and Eve. They ignore the reality of original sin which ushered suffering and death into our world. Beyond that they claim reward for good behavior and favor or protection from God for innocence. The Book of Job says no, you cannot; God is not obliged to reward the righteous with health, wealth, and prosperity. What to do? How are we then to live in this world?
Certainly not by challenging God or denying His justice and love! “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Two points, then, are worth holding to firmly. One: Jesus is God, and His word is law. And two: None of us has Job’s credentials and as such we have much less reason than he to complain about misfortune in this life, this side of heaven.
I make these two points because of the danger in society today, even among Catholics, to deny or ignore Christ’s sovereignty. There is something heartrending about the conservative commentators who have nothing more to offer than the founding fathers, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. They treat the United States as exceptional and claim favor in this life without reference to Jesus, the only God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The liberal commentators are even worse off, those truly tragic figures, who ignore Christ and claim as progress complete moral relativism, as if God were no longer in charge of His universe. Godlessness is not an option. It cannot be. All through the history of the Church we can find examples of saints who witnessed to God’s sovereignty and our beholding to Him.
One of the most mind-boggling things I think I have ever read is the “Treatise on Purgatory” by Saint Catherine of Genoa. She was born in the year 1447. She describes great happiness and relief at being caught up into the terrible sufferings of Purgatory! Why? Simply because she is not lost and at some point or another heaven and not hell awaits her.
St. John Climacus, born around 579 A.D. in his classic work, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”, has a chapter entitled, “On Painful and Genuine Repentance, Which is the Life of Godly Convicts, and Concerning the Prison”, in which he describes the horrible punishments taken on by monks in the Sinai desert, who took on prison sometimes voluntarily for dread of losing heaven for failing to sufficiently repent of their sins.
“Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Maybe St. Catherine of Genoa and St. John Climacus are a bit much to take on, especially if prayer and penance have been neglected up until this point in your life. Even so, I would be remiss, if I did not urge you to examine your conscience and seek to stir up in your heart the love of God in Christ Who offered Himself up on the Cross for our salvation. Penance should mark our lives not just in Lent but all year long.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI