Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
During his 1933 inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt encouraged people to remain calm during the Great Depression. He was reassuring people to stay calm and not to worry… He reminded the people that troubles can be sorted out, but if people panic and stampede, things will only get worse.
Fear and worry seem to go hand in hand. It’s been that way throughout history.
For more than a year, we’ve all heard people expressing their worries about Covid – we may have expressed them ourselves: fear of going to the grocery store, to church, or anywhere that people gather. Some are fearful of taking a vaccine, or fear of not being able to get it soon enough. Everyone wants to travel again, but there’s a hesitation, a fear about going somewhere that might not be as safe as we think it might be here.
In the gospels, Jesus often met people who were worried, or afraid of what they find themselves confronted with. You may remember the rich young man, who is afraid of what life would be like if he sold all of his possessions and followed Jesus. Or the Pharisees, who always seemed to be butting heads with Jesus, feared change itself, and the disruption that following Jesus would cause to both their own, and society’s ways of doing things.
Today in our gospel, it’s the disciples, who are afraid of a storm. And yet, over and over again in the scriptures, the one thing we’re told, is to not be afraid – to not be afraid of something that is outside of our comfort zone, or our experience. When the Angel Gabriel greets Mary, the first words he says to her are, “do not be afraid.” It’s what the angels say to the shepherds in the fields too. Or when Jesus tells his followers not to worry as he points to a field of wild flowers and says, “if God cares for them, don’t you think he’ll care for you too?” Jesus asks his disciples in the boat with him today, “Why are you afraid?”
Now, none of these stories tell us that there’s nothing to fear, or that everything always works out for the best. I mean, if you take a boat out onto a lake and a storm comes up, the possibility of sinking is real. That’s just the way things go. Jesus isn’t saying you won’t. But that’s why this image of the boat tossed about by the wind and waves is about more than a description of actual events. It represents us all as we strive to make our way through life, and find ourselves worried and fearful, overwhelmed by setbacks, or disappointments that overpower our life, our peace, and our faith. Those storms blow into our lives, and they can be anything – a sickness, a spiral into depression. It might be when someone we love tells us that, he or she doesn’t love us any more. Perhaps it’s the death of someone we love. Or the storm of mental illness, of aging, the loss of respect for everyone and everything?
Of course there are the storms of poverty, violence, and Racism? Or after the pandemic, the worry of economic recovery, will people come back to church? What will this post-covid church look like? Or the worry of advancing technology… and how we will keep up with it? “Oh, just do that online!”
Whatever that storm might be, we feel as though our whole world is collapsing, and like those disciples in the boat, we feel like we’re sinking.
We’re worried and fearful – it’s awful. However, worry and fear can cripple us – it cripples our ability to be transformed. That’s why those storms might not necessarily be a bad thing. As we see in the gospel, those storms can be an occasion for growth and blessings. It’s when we seem to lose control of our lives, that faith can become something very real for us.
We cry out to God in our need – to God who was always with us, but whom we may have taken for granted – and we find that, we’re not alone. Jesus is with us. If we’ve ever experienced any kind of personal storm, when the calm came, we probably began to look at life a bit differently. For many, that’s what’s happened with this pandemic.
I’ve shared with you before that this pandemic as horrible as it is, has taught many people (including myself) a lot about themselves and their family life – that it made them re-evaluate their lives and focus on what’s really important. Things became a bit clearer – all because of God’s blessing – that comes upon us in so many ways – maybe most notably through the love of family and friends. And as we look back and reflect on our personal storms, we’ll see that it was God’s presence that got us through whatever storm we faced. Today’s gospel reminds us that, Jesus is always with us.
It may be that, the storms continue to rage about us. But faith in Jesus and his love, brings about an inner calm and peace – and rids us of our worries and fears – even in the midst of any storm. That’s the gift God offers us. So how can we fear – when God is always in the boat with us calming the winds and helping us through? Amen.