Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Twelfth Sunday: God Over Nature
At the end of the Book of Job, God addressed Job out of a storm and asked him if he was present when God created the world. In today’s first reading God speaks about the creation and confining of the sea. In the Gospel, Jesus quiets a storm, and the disciples ask, “Who is this whom even the wind and sea obey?”
Insurance companies use a term to describe an uncontrollable natural force. They call this an act of God. That is an unfortunate term. It assumes that God causes nature to do harm to people. God does not do evil things to people. People do evil things to people. Pope Francis in the encyclical Lauate Si, On the Care for our Common Home, directs us to discover and prevent any catastrophe that could rightly be called an Act of Man.
Natural catastrophes are events that we are very much aware of here in Florida. We are always keeping an eye on the weather and how it will effect the waters around us. We have to have a lot of respect for stormy weather, particularly when a hurricane threatens. Here at St. Ignatius, we either have hurricane windows, or wood or metal doors and windows to protect the Church and all of our buildings. Hopefully, you have all made provisions to protect your homes also.
As careful as people have to be with their property that is on land, they have to be far more careful with that which is on the water. Boats have got to be secured. Trying to stay afloat during a major storm is foolish unless you are in a really large ship.
The ancients also had a healthy respect for the sea and for storms out on the sea. The ancients saw the sea as one of the most powerful forces in the world. They also saw the sea as a source of beauty. Life itself came from the sea. Food comes from the sea. Peace and serenity come from looking at the sea. If you don’t believe me than you haven’t gone out to see the sunset on Howard Park recently.
Even though it was such a powerful force, the ancients knew that God could control the sea. In the Book of Job, Job’s pains lead him to question God's wisdom and power. God challenges Job with the simple statement found in the first reading for this Sunday: “I closed up the sea.” God has even more power than the sea.
The fear of a storm at sea was too much for Jesus' disciples in the today’s Gospel reading. Many of them were fishermen. They were terrorized when they saw the storm coming. When Jesus quieted the sea and the winds, they recognized the power of God working through him. Their question: “Who is this that calms the storm and the winds?” was similar to asking, “Who is the King of Glory?”
First, though, their faith was tried. Remember, when the storm came up, Jesus was asleep in the boat. It appeared that He was not concerned with their plight. It seemed that they had to ride out this storm alone. The fear that the disciples had is the same fear that we all have when we are confronted with a crisis. We find out that we have a serious illness, and we become fearful for our lives and for our loved ones. We learn a terrible truth about one of our relatives or friends, and we fear that their lives and even our own reputations will be shattered. We often have to accept a change in our lives. Even changes as routine as moving from Middle School to High School, or High School to college, or college to independent life as a young adult can be frightening. We consider marriage and our responsibilities to a person we love, and then we consider our responsibilities to those people that we bring into the world, and we fear that we might not be up to the challenges of life. We fear that we are alone. But we are not alone. God sees. God knows. He’s there in the boat of life with us as the storms rage. He challenges us as Jesus challenged his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” Our all loving God is also an all-powerful God. He will calm the sea for us if we trust in Him. God does not forget us, even if we think He is sleeping.
Perhaps today’s readings are not about nature after all. They are about God, the One who created the universe and cares for each one of us as an only child. He calls upon us to have faith that conqueror of the seas and of all chaos will help us grow closer to Him through all the challenges of our lives.