12th Sunday Year B - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2009

What is going on in the Church? Many people we know to be Catholics no longer join us to celebrate Eucharist. Your own children, perhaps, no longer view the Church with the same interest and commitment that you have. It hurts.  Younger people show little interest in becoming priests; and those of us still around are growing older, and fewer, and looking after bigger areas and more communities, with less time and energy to give to each.We're confronted with the relentless exposure of past sexual abuse, and the painfully inadequate response to it by Church leaders.What's going on? What sense can we make of it?  Do we simply hope that things will change? that we can go back to how things were fifty years ago?

I think that Mark wrote up today's Gospel incident in the way he did to throw light precisely on the kinds of worries confronting us today. In lots of ways, thing haven't changed all that much - the Church has always done it tough.  The community that Mark wrote his Gospel for, way back then, was threatening to break up – it was overwhelmed by persecution and internal divisions. Across history, the Church has pretty constantly been in the middle of storms. Individual storms blow themselves out in time; though new storms blow up. And, often enough, they can be quite destructive. But life goes on.

Was there ever a golden age in the Church? You only need to know a little bit of history to answer that. To experience storms is of the nature of the Church on mission. We wouldn't be sent on mission to our world if all in our world were wonderful. There is sin abroad in our world, and in our Church, and in us. But that is not the whole story. The Spirit of God is also at work in our world, in our Church, and in us as well.

It is of the nature of storms that they are scary. When you are in the middle of a storm,you're in the middle of a storm. To know that storms are to be expected doesn't make being in the middle of one any less scary.  Does Mark give any clues as to how we might react in stormy weather? He showed the disciples panic-ing and crying out: Master, do you not care? We're going down! - Hardly a surprising reaction, given that the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But Jesus was annoyed at their reaction: Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith? How did he expect them to react? to let him sleep on regardless? and to let the boat get completely swamped? It seems he wanted them to trust him completely - either to do something (which in fact he did, though he wasn't pleased about it), or to do nothing, and trust that all would somehow be well.

What might today's story tell us? I think that it says simply: Whatever is going on, don't panic; do what you can - and trust.He is with us. It is his Church, not ours. We do what we can - and then we trust. We do what we can - not what we can't! We do what we can: we remain faithful; and we accept that we can't make others do what we would want them to do, so we don't lose sleep over that.  And, in the midst of it all, we feel our pain; we feel our confusion and our uncertainty, but we retain our composure. We even learn to rejoice when things don't go our way -because our joy is not a reaction to what is going on around us, but wells up from deep within, where our loving God is present and at work in us.  After all, who is this, who so often seems to be asleep while our Church struggles onward?