12th Sunday (Note & Bulletin)

Early in this year's football season, the Green Bay Packers, who many had thought would challenge for the championship, had one win and three losses. Lots of people hit the “panic button” and wondered if the whole season was over. In an interview, Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback, told fans, “Five letters here, just for everybody out there in Packer land, R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We're going to be OK.” Sure enough, the Packers ended up winning the Division and almost making the Super Bowl. The point of this little story is that Aaron Rodgers wasn't worried because he knew the skill and commitment of his team members. Often in our own lives, we can feel like those Packer fans who had hit the “panic button.” There are times, sometimes short and sometimes long, that leave us feeling as if everything is coming undone. We want to get control of things, to get a handle on them. And when we can't seem to do so, we feel like Job in the “whirlwind.” In faith, however, we know that we are never alone nor asked to live within the degree of our own strength and power.

I remember years ago when I was studying Philosophy as part of my formation for priesthood. It was not a good or easy time. Because I was in such “bad straits,” my Jesuit Superior sent me to the Jesuit who always got the “hard cases.” I came to Lourdes to speak with Fr Massie once a month. Fr Massie told me that we often say to ourselves, “I just need a little more time to get a handle of things. That I'll get things under control.” I thought, “Yes! Yes! Just a little more time and I'll get things together.” But Fr Massie went on to say, “The problem is that we'll never reach that point in which everything is together.” In other words, the “whirlwind” may be the place where I spend most of my life, if not all of it. The challenge we face is not to be frightened by the apparent strength of the “whirlwind,” rather to know in our hearts that the Lord is our real strength and that God will never leave us to the powers that seem to threaten our destruction.

In St Mark's Gospel, Jesus is in a boat with some of his disciples. The Lord has fallen asleep when a great wind comes and begins to swamp the boat. If the boat is being swamped, it means that it is sinking. We can imagine the fear of the disciples of sinking in deep water and their anger towards Christ when they see him sleeping. In fact, “they woke him up and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'” Jesus then rebuked the wind and commanded the sea to be calm. To the disciples he said, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Our faith does not spare us from real difficulties and uncertainties. We have struggles with our families, relationships, concerns of employment and finances, school, health, immigration for ourselves or loved ones, and the list could go on and on. The point for me is not that faith in Christ makes us blind to or repressive of our difficulties and those of the world. On the contrary, it gives me the freedom not to be afraid, to enter into the difficulties and struggles. We can do so because we know one thing – we are never alone. If we say that God is love then it means specific things. It means that God will never wash his hands of us. God will never let us sink. Because God is love, it means that life, the fullness of life, is his eternal promise. As St Paul wrote, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” I may never get a “handle on things” but this is ok because God is God and he is my God. It's not just me in my life - God is with us. And let us never forget, that he is love and his love for you is all-powerful. In the words of the Psalmist, let us “give thanks to the Lord; his steadfast love endures forever.” So let us “R-E-L-A-X,” let us be free and not enchained by fear. God is real and he is with us. Alleluia!

God Bless and Take Care!

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