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

The journey of faith is a never-ending one, where we constantly come to know the Father through Jesus.  It parallels the journey of the first disciples.  Their journey was also a coming to faith,  a gradual understanding that God is always the one who speaks first, who acts first, who loves first.  And sometimes they learned that discipleship always involves a call that requires a reply, an invitation requiring a response. 

The story in this week's Gospel is a perfect example of this process.  Jesus invites the disciples to "go across to the other side” of the lake.  Their response: "they took him with them in the boat."  Unfortunately, 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, 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 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?”  We may not get a satisfying answer but we do hear the message of the Gospel today.  Jesus is teaching us disciples to stay close.  We need to stay close to the one who died and is risen from the dead and we need to stay close to each other.  This is how we will find security through the most difficult storms in our lives.   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. 

Jesus asks a simple question:  "Why are you afraid?  Do you still not have faith? " But Jesus answers his own question: "Don't you see that I am with you?" The move from fear to faith is one of holding onto Jesus' presence, knowing that He will always be with us.  No matter what.