Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The first words Jesus speaks in Mark’s Gospel are “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (1:15) How often we forget that this Kingdom is at hand, that the coming of Christ and His work on the Cross has ushered in a new order, a new reality? In John He tells us that “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” (12:31) The world was once bound in the coils of the ancient serpent, but there is a new ruler: Christ the King. Today’s Gospel show us the power but also the tenderness of the King who has returned to rule the world.

Notice the authoritative language in our reading today. “Jesus made the disciples get into a boat…” “Take courage…do not be afraid…” “Lordcommand me…” Here we see a kingly Jesus in the midst of the stormy sea, walking upon its surface as though it were solid ground. Why? Because the sea obeys Him; the sea which was a source of awe and terror in the ancient world, a territory of chaos, and yet Jesus can walk upon it. He through whom the seas were made (John 1:3) is its Lord, and the apostles witness this fact, yet they are so startled they think it is a ghost, even after the tender command of Jesus to have no fear. Peter tests this supposed ghost, knowing that if it truly was Jesus, and if Jesus—Peter’s Lord—commanded him to walk on water, he not only would do it, but he could do it, for our King never asks the impossible of us. And so he does, for a distance.

Yet the wind frightened him, and his faith wavered: Jesus commands the sea but the wind seems not to heed Him. Notice what Jesus does: He doesn’t command the water to hold Peter up, nor does He rebuke the storm. Rather, He rescues Peter with His bare hands. Jesus is King; He has conquered the world (John 16:33) yet even with His terrific power and authority He is not so beyond us that He won’t take us by the hand when we are overwhelmed by forces beyond our own power. Today’s Gospel tells us that “the boat…was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.” It was the wind that frightened Peter, not the waves; the wind is invisible yet powerful, and once Jesus was in the boat, the wind could not prevail against it, and it “died down.” The disciples, seeing all this, seeing that the sea obeyed Jesus and the winds could not oppose Him, “did him homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”

There is a lot of this “wind” in the world, these phantom attacks, these words and events that cause waves in our lives and fill us with fear and anxiety. Here we are in our little boat—the Church, the “Bark of Peter”—wondering if we are going to make it to the opposite shore that is Heaven. But never forget that Jesus is in our boat, that He will not hesitate to reach down and pluck you out of the waters should they consume you. He is the Lord of this world and His Kingdom is upon us: what have we to fear?

August 13th, 2017