Here's my homily for Pentecost speaking of the 12th Week of Ordinary Time on the notion of "presence" and its importance for our faith.
You can fid the readings on which this homily is based linked HERE
I just returned from a week at the beach in Rehoboth DE.
It was great to enjoy something resembling a normal family vacation.
The beach at Rehoboth is on the open ocean so there were definitely waves
...with the early season breezes even kicking up whitecaps with the breakers close to the beach very often just about my height of six feet.
It was all just delightful.
But this experience of the wind and the waves is a far cry from what we read about in today’s Gospel where disciples and Jesus are caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee.
This Sea of Galilee is a kind of paradoxical place.
On a calm and sunny day it is a truly beautiful and peaceful place that easily prompts reflection of the many great events in the Gospels that went down on its shores.
But, due to its particular geography it can be a quite stormy place on occasion.
It is several hundred feet below sea level, like water on the bottom of a bowl.
The cooler and dry mountain air coming off the surrounding hills and the warm and moist air over the near tropical land that rings this 12 X 8 mile lake
...can produce sudden and violent little wind storms that can whip up these shallow waters.
So relatively violent and sudden wind storms are well known, like we have in today’s Gospel.
The disciples in the boat were experienced fishermen who knew to be afraid.
An important point to recall is that the ancients saw the sea, especially when whipped by violent storms as emblematic of chaos
...forces beyond their control that could upend and threaten life itself.
Also, the Gospel of Mark is written for, and reflects the realities faced by a fledgling Christian community, our ancestors in the faith
...who were under pressure and persecution, possibly even in Rome itself.
Mark seeks to strengthen their faith.
They, like the disciples in the boat, had their own chaos to face, reason to fear.
Would they sink under the waves, dragged under by their own infidelity to Christ under pressure, denying who He was and who they were?
Would they be blown off the course of their Christian faith by their own fears of rejection, isolation, imprisonment or worse?
Would they be tempted to believe that Jesus was “asleep”, not present
...indifferent to whether they perished or not?
These days we have fainter echos of such chaos around us
...as societies formed by centuries of Christian assumptions and perspectives move away from them, consciously or not
...resulting low grade tempests and squalls of chaos blow through our politics, our culture and even the church.
This is on top of the chaos that can enter our lives and challenge us as they always have
...through illness, job loss, family breakdown, the death of a loved one, or a loved one losing their faith.
We too can ask “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
We too can imagine that he is asleep back there on the cushion.
Wondering if we too are left to face the storm alone.
Yet if we expect Him to answer our question we need to wrestle with his.
“Why are you terrified?”
“Do you not yet have faith?”
Are we too left wondering “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey?”
Who is this that “was crucified, died and was buried...and on the third day rose again from the dead?”
“Where is he now?”
Well He is with us still, present to us, as He promised to be...to the end of the age.
Our tradition offers some basic ways that this is true for us.
He is present to us where his disciples are gathered in his name, pre-eminently so when the community assembles together like this.
He is present to us in the Word proclaimed, particularly in the Gospel.
He is present to us in a real, mystical and sublime way in the Eucharist.
In this we are reminded that gathering and community are critical ways through which we sense Christ’s presence.
All of this has been seriously challenged during the pandemic.
Facebook is nice...but for most it’s not where we need to be. We know this.
Many are wondering what the “life of the Church” will look like on the other side of this
...as we safely get past the wind and the waves of this challenge.
A lot of smart people haven’t a clue. There are lots of open questions.
But Christ is still present to us...in the boat with us. THAT is not an open question.
How we will respond is.
How we will be present to Him and to each other going forward is critically important
...for the future of the church and our own parish community.
There much is riding on how we respond.