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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time: We need to trust and believe that God is steering the ship

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Sunday Scripture readings for June 23, 2024, Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jb 38:1, 8-11  Ps 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31  2 Cor 5:14-17  Mk 4:35-41

We need to trust and believe that God is steering the ship

Rembrandt got it.

Centuries ago, the artist captured the scene in this Sunday’s Gospel — a scene full of raging waves and gathering clouds and sheer, unabashed terror. The apostles are screaming in fear. One of them is leaning over the side of the boat, throwing up. And in the back there is Jesus, blissfully asleep, seemingly unaware of any of the turmoil around him.

How often do we feel like that? How often do we feel overwhelmed by the storms of life, and think that God isn’t paying attention?

But Rembrandt adds this detail: he positions Jesus near the back of the boat, where someone steering the vessel would sit. He’s there when the apostles awaken him. With just a word, he calms the storm and then spends the calm after the storm rebuking them.

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

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633) (Wikimedia Commons)

(Read more about “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” which was stolen from the Gardener Museum: www.gardnermuseum.org/experience/collection/10953 and here: www.thecollector.com/who-stole-rembrandts-painting-storm-sea-galilee/)

We could ask ourselves the same question today, when we face the squalls in our own lives.

I once read about a preacher who offered this timeless wisdom: “God is always present,” he told his listeners, “even though he may not always be evident.”

Here is a message we can’t hear often enough: we need to trust and believe that God is steering the ship. Even if we think he’s asleep at the rudder.

In the early days of the church, when Mark was writing his Gospel, that was an urgent and timely lesson. Christians were being rounded up, imprisoned, executed. The Barque of Peter — their little boat — was constantly in danger of going under. Jesus’ words in the midst of the storm most assuredly gave persecuted Christians reason to hold on for dear life and have some sense of hope. God was with them.

We all need to keep asking ourselves in moments of worry, helplessness or doubt: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Encountering storms, as all of us do, we need to remember Christ’s challenging, humbling words.

When the check bounces, or the surgery doesn’t work, or a job falls through, or we find ourselves awake at two in the morning, staring at the ceiling, wondering how we will make it from one side of the sea to the other, we need to rediscover faith. Hold fast to it. When the waves are overwhelming, we need to remember who is steering our boat.

In every season, in every kind of weather.

When the water is surging, when the wind is howling, when it seems we are about to be thrown into the water … remember what happened on the Sea of Galilee.

God won’t let us go overboard.

We will not be abandoned when our lives seem lost, when friendship is scarce, when we feel unloved or unlovable. When it seems we will sink and that the storm has become too much to bear.

Have faith.

Whether we realize it or not, God is close. In fact, he is as much a part of the storm as the wind and the waves.

In the first reading, God addresses Job “out of the storm” — not from out of the sky, or some place apart, but from “out of the storm.” He is in it. And he reassures Job that He, God, is in control. “Here shall your proud waves be stilled.”

And then, in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus goes ahead and stills “the proud waves” by being right in the middle of them.

This should give us consolation and hope — and, really, embolden our faith. God is beside us, behind us, among us — his hand on the rudder, his eye on the clouds (and, we’re reminded elsewhere, even on the sparrow).

Remember what he has done. Remember what he can do.

This Gospel story conveys one simple but profound lesson: just have faith.

Ultimately, we are all in the same boat.

And, it turns out, God is there with us.

Deacon Greg Kandra is an award-winning author and journalist, and creator of the blog “The Deacon’s Bench.”

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