XII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
This Sunday’s passage (Mk 4: 35-41) opens a new section of the Gospel. After having spoken in parables and instructed the crowd, Jesus wants to go further “go to the other shore” (v. 35) to the region of the Decapolis, an area inhabited mainly by pagans.
This passage makes a clear link with a theme in several Old Testament references, but in particular with the book of Jonah. Yet here we see the theme from a different perspective; while Jonah was fleeing the divine command to go to Nineveh, Jesus expresses his desire to go, showing a true faithfulness to the divine plan.
In both the reading from the book of Jonah and the Gospel passage of today, the sea, which is a symbol of tribulation and evil, is stormy and risks sinking the boat. The disciples, like the sailors of the book of Jonah, are frightened and do not know what to do. Jesus like Jonah is inexplicably asleep during the storm. For Jonah his sleep was due to his desire to escape from God’s request, he did not want to listen; while Jesus’ sleep indicates his trust in the Father’s Providence, resting in Him without fear.
Here the Lordship of Jesus is exhibted over nature. Mark has already shown Jesus who sees the heavens open and on whom the Spirit rests (Mk 1:10), and who receives the testimony of the demons about his divine nature (Mk 1:24). Jesus teaches with authority, but he also has direct authority over the sick; he casts out demons and forgives sins.
Now with this gesture Jesus reveals that he also has authority over the natural order, which immediately obeys him: only the Creator and the Redeemer have authority over creation. Mark wants to tell us that Jesus is God, and that he has authority over everything.
But this revelation cannot yet be fully understood. The disciples, in fact, remain confused: “and they were seized with great fear and said to each other: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mk 4:41).
The lordship of Jesus over the entirety of creation, in fact, can only be understood after Easter, when Jesus will leave us the sign of Jonah by which he will show us that even death is placed under his dominion.
The disciples are afraid, and Jesus rebukes them for their little faith. Their closeness to Jesus did not make them more solid and steadfast. Their relationship with the master is still superficial, their faith has not yet been tested in the crucible.
Fear and faith are mutually exclusive. Whoever has faith, also has confidence. The faithful person is a person who trusts and does not isolate himself; he is a person who creates community and always knows how to start over again. He is receptive to the call for the creation of new life. Fear, on the other hand, paralyzes its possessor, it locks up a person in chains, it leads to sterility and loneliness.
The disciples will also have to “go to the other shore” facing new perspectives, and a change in mentality will be necessary to fully understand the identity of their Master.
Each of us can recognize himself or herself in this passage. Each of us has his or her own “sea” and “storm”, and it is not always taken for granted that in order “to reach the other shore” we must have faith and knowledge that the Master is with us, and that he cares about us.
It is also customary to see in this passage, and in particular in the disciples’ boat, an image of the Church, tossed about by the waves of the sea. Yet we cannot forget that the bark is saved by the presence of the Redeemer and therefore it never sinks.
In our eyes, reality often seems different. We are in a storm, we feel lost, and it seems to us that nobody cares. At times the Church seems to us to be adrift and we are unable to focus on the goal. Today, Jesus repeats to us his question: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”. (Mk 4,40)