12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Moving from Fear to Faith

The journey of faith is a never-ending one… one of constantly coming to know the Father through Jesus.  It parallels the journey of the first disciples - their coming to faith… their coming to understand who the Father was - and how they came to know him. God is always the one who speaks first, who acts first, who loves first; and discipleship always involves a call, an invitation requiring a response. 

The story in this week's Gospel is a perfect example of the process of the faith journey.  Jesus invites the disciples to "go across to the other side” of the lake.  The response: "they took him with them in the boat."  However, a quick response is simply not enough.

Discipleship is fundamentally a leap of faith - which is not the same as belief.  Faith is a deep, bedrock trust in God's presence in the world, in the person of Jesus and in our lives.  When the storms of life whip up we come to the truth of just how deep is our faith.  Life is full of overwhelming waves - even for experienced sailors or fishermen.

Our God knows that if we spend all of our lives reacting fearfully to life's storms, we will never know the fullness of life in Him.  God is always with us - that is a fact.  But do we trust deeply?  Can we ride out life's storms by trusting the quiet, still presence of God that is beneath the surface of the storm.   That is faith. 

The Gospel of Mark always encourages us to place our trust in Christ, whose suffering and death give meaning to our lives.  We don’t have to experience the challenge of discipleship, if we don’t want to.  But if we choose to follow Jesus then there will be power for us, the power of the cross and the power of service. 

We certainly do not live in a world of peace and calm.  Our lives are surrounded with suffering and death, with war and poverty, mistrust and fear.  Our governments, our society and even our churches are divided and fractured.  There are times when we look to the heavens and, like Job, cry out:  "Don't you care that we are perishing?"

But the Gospel tells us that the real sign of discipleship is a trust in Jesus and who he is for us.  We are challenged to put our faith in Christ even amid the turmoil and storms that seem to be about to sink us.  All Jesus asks is our trust in him, even when there seem to be no great display of His power or miraculous intervention in times of crisis.

There is no easy answer to the mystery of suffering.  The reading from Job, the first reading today, gives us just a glimpse:  an innocent man suffers and struggles with his belief in a just God.  The entire Book of Job deals with one man trying to make sense of his suffering.  He confronts God with his arguments and gets the response we hear in today’s reading; God is God and who is Job to question the Almighty?  Not a very satisfying answer for the question of suffering. 

The Gospel doesn’t provide an answer either, but it does teach us that the question in the minds of the disciples, after Jesus calms the storm, is ours as well: “Who is he?”  Whether or not we come up with a satisfying answer, we do hear the message of the Gospel today.  Jesus is teaching us disciples to stay close to him.  We need to stay close to the one who died and is risen from the dead, this is the way we have security through the most difficult storms;  this is our foothold as we struggle with what seems to have no rational or adequate answer.  In times of distress it is our consolation that Jesus does care for us and has our ultimate safety as his complete concern. 

As He did then, Jesus stands before us and asks:  "Why are you afraid?  Don't you see that I am with you?" And as He was then, Jesus is more concerned with teaching us how to trust through the storm than he is with calming outward storms.  The move from fear to faith is to hold onto Jesus' presence even when he is still and quiet.