Conrad Pepler O.P. 12th Sunday of the Year
Job c1 vv 1, 8-11; 2 Cor c5 vv 14-17; Mark c4 vv 35-41.
THE WORD in the second creation used the elements used in the formation of the first. Earth, air, fire and water, as the groundwork or foundation, and then bread and wine, oil and the fruits of the trees — not to mention the astounding work of the bee that forms the source of the light of the Paschal Candle.
All these basic things, and many others have been used in forming the life of the Church, the second creation. Of these, water remains primary. The active work of the new creation began as the Word made flesh stepped out of Jordan having this sanctified the element of water as the instrument of baptism.
Water is thus controlled by the creator, and our imagination is quietly fed by visions of babbling clear springs leaping from the rocks and flowing between lush green banks whence spread fields of wheat and pasture, orchard and vegetable — such visions that gave our prehistoric ancestors their goddess of the springs of water.
Or it may be we put out our hands after a spell of dry weather to feel the joy of the gentle rain. But Job in his matchless and overwhelmingly powerful poetry reminds us that water with the other elements from which the Lord is making the world and all that is in it, is and indeed must be of tremendous, in some ways horrific, power.
Follow the quiet stream to its destiny and there you stand on the shore of the immense ocean whose storms and waves have power to blot out man from the memory of the universe.
The Lord "pent up the sea behind closed doors when it leapt tumultuous out of the womb ... and marked the bounds it was not to cross." As the priest pours those two or three clear drops on the child's forehead "In the name of the Father ...", it is worth remembering the terrifying vastness of oceans contained in those drops.
There are many, particularly on an island state, who are attracted by the challenge of the sea, partly ready to pit their wits against this immensity of power, partly ready to trust the mothering creativity within that power — for they love the sea and do not hate her as an enemy. But the most intrepid of sailors is from time to time thrust back to the mercy of the Creator of the seas: Some sailed to the sea in ships to trade on the mighty waters. These men have seen the Lord's deeds, the wonders he does in the deep. For he spoke; he summoned the gale, raising up the waves of the sea. Tossed up to heaven, then into the deep, their soul melted away in their distress. They staggered, reeled like drunken men, for all their skill was gone. They cried to the Lord in their need, and he rescued them from their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; all the waves of the sea were hushed.
Pslam 106 makes a most appropriate Responsonal Psalm after the Reading from Job.
In matters of love and faith the Christian has no choice, he cannot choose to remain a "land lubber"; he is impelled to accept the challenge of the sailor whose far-seeing eyes gaze across the hidden powers of flood and storm to the harbour signalled by the cross. 'The love of Christ,' says St Paul, 'overwhelms us' — there are various ways of tackling the Greek wol d — RSV has 'controls us', the Vulgate 'urget nos', urges or impels us towards the harbour.
—The Christian life is not a comfortable and uneventful way of life for the pious who keep themselves to themselves and hoe to reach the harbour without taking any chances. The Christian can no longer live for himself, for he is 'a new creation', another Christ, or rather the same Christ dying today for the world as he has always done since Calvary. Paul is saying that those who accept the love of Christ are taking up the cfrallenge of martyrdom, of sainthood.
The power of that love holds within its control all the immense — and intense — powers that drive the whole universe along as God creates it.
The apostles of course were almost to a man more accustomed to the waters as boisterous, feckless spirits to be treated with respect if they were to be persuaded to yield up some of their treasures — water was no quiet, obedient stream for them. They were fishermen; they had taken up the challenge many, many times setting out on the bosom of the deep in search of their livelihood.
But such experience had taught them only too clearly when to recognise that the game was up. The gale was hurling the waters into the boat and it was about to sink. The 'Teacher', the one who carried with him the words of life, was asleep at the other end of the boat, unaware of the danger?
No sailor he? The experienced fishermen may have thought as much. Yet within that quiet apparent unconcern lay all the terrifying powers of creation. The wind and the sea were playing with no ordinary fishermen this evening. This Sailor stood up and they shuddered to a halt in their game. The calmness that was cushioned at the stern of the boat became in a trice the calmness across the whole bosom of the deep.
The challenge of faith and love that the Christian has accepted at his baptism does not rely for successful issue on the Christian's own human powers. He is given faith and love in Christ; these are the creative powers of the new creation.
It is sometimes easy to forget when he, poor little man, becomes suddenly aware of the massive indifference and mounting waves of contempt that surround him. Perhaps the world at large is correct after all, and there is nothing in this 'Christian thing' after all! "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"
The secret of remaining faithful to the challenge that we have taken up is never to stray far from that inner peace and calm where things remain in true perspective and we can see that we are not left alone to establish the Kingdom without the King.