Kate Oxsen

June 23: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2024

Do not be afraid

Jb 38:1, 8-11; 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31; 2 Cor 5:14-17; Mk 4:35-41

This Sunday has an interesting combination of readings. The most obvious theme that connects them all is the theme of creation.

In all but one reading today, the focus is on God’s ordering of the primordial waters. This idea is found in several biblical creation myth stories, and we see echoes of it throughout the Old and New Testaments. What is most interesting, though, is the use of Job for the Old Testament reading alongside Mark’s story of Jesus calming the storm.

It is curious that Job was chosen as the Old Testament reading alongside these other texts, especially with so many references to the waters of creation in the Old Testament. The story of Noah sees an undoing of creation alongside the emergence of a new creation. Exodus also uses creation water imagery to tell the story of the creation of the nation of Israel.

What we see take place in Mark’s story harkens back to this myth of the primordial waters. As Jesus calms the waters with his word alone, this story seems to connect most strongly to the creation story in Genesis 1, where God calms and separates the waters with his word alone. What can the story of Job teach us about this story in the Gospel of Mark?

One thing this helps us do is to turn our focus away from Jesus and onto the disciples. Our Old Testament reading is not focused on God, per se, but on Job. It is taken from God’s speech to Job, after Job has railed against God and debated with his friends for almost an entire 37 chapters.

We can understand Job’s anger toward God and why he denies all the traditional explanations for suffering that his friends offer him. We can also understand his friends for trying to help Job make sense of the suffering and loss he has endured.

It is not until God expands Job’s perspective to the created world that Job is able to move forward, even if he does not truly receive an explanation for his suffering. Job demands answers from God and God responds, though not without challenging Job and leaving him and his friends with things to think about.

Our disciples in Mk 4:35-41 have not even come close to suffering in the way Job had. Even so, they have made sacrifices in order to follow Jesus. Now they are trapped in a boat during a storm, and it does not seem to them that Jesus even cares (4:38).

As Job did before them, the disciples push Jesus to respond to their concern. Jesus awakes and does as they ask, but he does not do so without offering them a challenge, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (4:40). In the moment the disciples seem more focused on Jesus’ ability to calm the storm than his questions (4:41). But the question Jesus asks them is there for readers to ponder many years later.

What does it look like for someone to have faith during a difficult time? For Job, it meant persevering in his complaint against God and challenging the traditional teaching his friends recite for him (which God seems to commend him for, Job 42:7-8). Today’s Gospel suggests that faith in a difficult moment means not letting fear control one’s thoughts or actions (Mk 4:40). This is a difficult thing to do.

Fear is meant to help keep us safe from danger. Sometimes it does, like in those moments when we get a bad feeling about a stranger and cross the street. Sometimes fear of danger can be taken too far, though, leaving one to view everyone and everything as an enemy.

Fear can also protect us from emotional danger but can also be taken too far. Fear can damage relationships or keep someone from taking on new challenges that might help them grow.

This story allows us to imagine Jesus challenging our fears, and asking us to discover what it would look like to react according to faith rather than our fears.



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