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Bulletin: June 20, 2021

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Though we re-enter Ordinary Time already knowing that Jesus is the Son of God (see the centurion’s words at the end of the Palm Sunday Passion reading from Mark’s Gospel), the long succession of Sundays confronts us again with the question that each Christian community, each individual Christian faces continually throughout life: “Who is this?” (Mark 4:41), and prompts an “examination of conscience” regarding the practical consequences of our response. This year’s Gospel readings from Mark suggest that we find our answer in the cross and in the Eucharist. Today’s stark challenge of Jesus’ call to discipleship is, thankfully, balanced by the comfort we can take in relating—perhaps only too well—to the disciples’ fears. Though we welcome Jesus in Word and Eucharist Sunday after Sunday, don’t we all, from time to time during our lives “ordinary time,” experience Jesus’ “real absence”?


As always in Ordinary Time, today’s Old Testament sets the stage for the Gospel. God, who in Jesus will “rebuke the wind” and “command the sea to be still” (Mark 4:39), “addresses Job out of the storm” (Job 38:1), speaking to the turmoil in Job’s heart, calling to mind the primal chaos of creation’s untamed sea, reminding Job that God’s mighty word then was enough to command order and bring forth life. In today’s Gospel, the disciples’ fear, even near despair, takes center stage. Are any of us strangers to such emotions? Squall-force winds buffet their boat, waves break over it, and Jesus might as well not be there. Mark’s account is especially grim. Alone among the evangelists, he tells us that Jesus is in the stern, the very back of the boat, not just asleep—sound asleep! Only Mark adds the detail, “on a cushion” (4:38).


Though we welcome Jesus in Word and Eucharist Sunday after Sunday, haven’t we all, from time to time, experienced Jesus’ “real absence”? This personal application should comfort us, as it has generations of disciples before us. Though the “boat” is, primarily, a symbol of the Church, never forsaken by Christ, carried safely across time’s stormy waters, Saint Augustine preaching on this very Gospel sixteen hundred years ago noted that, since each of us is a temple of God, each one’s heart is a sailing boat. Consider any temptation, says Augustine, as “the wind, the surging of the sea,” and do what the disciples did: wake up Christ, “the sleeper in your heart,” by recalling his words and commands. Then be like the wind and the sea: “The sea obeys him, the wind is still.” Whenever emotions make our hearts turbulent, whenever Christ seems absent or at least asleep, “let us not despair but awaken Christ, so that we may sail in quiet waters, and reach at last our heavenly homeland.”

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