A “perfect storm,” “worst-case scenario,” etc. – no matter what image you use, no one wants to, or expects to, face such scenarios.
In the early 20th-century Jewish people went through a worst-case scenario to a degree most of us will never know. They call it “the Holocaust.” For the most part, we can only imagine the depths of that experience. Many still ask “Why? How could a loving God allow this to happen?” Millennia earlier a man named Job asked the same questions. “The Lord addressed Job out of the storm…”
What is the worst thing that could happen to you? We each have people, places, traditions, it would be devastating for us to lose.
As I wrote in an earlier reflection, I have only recently become conscious of the “perfect storm” faced by the early Christian community at the time Mark collected the stories of Jesus and made use of them to ultimately give hope in a disastrous situation.
The destruction of the temple – a perfect storm
With Jesus’ resurrection, they expected a new era. But under Roman domination, they experienced the destruction of their towns, the displacement of their people, and the appropriation of land for Roman military use. In following Jesus, the miracle worker, they never imagined their heritage reduced to the rubble with the destruction of the Temple. How could they make sense of all this?
Mark addresses all this as he commits to writing the stories about Jesus. Writing more as a theological storyteller than as a historical chronicler, he organizes the stories to show how often they misunderstood Jesus or simply did not believe their Messiah would have to suffer and die.
His Gospel is heavy with growing conflict with the Jewish leaders and his suffering and death. It is only after his resurrection they BEGAN to understand. In structuring his gospel in this way, Mark is sending a message that following Jesus involves suffering just as he did. But following Jesus will ultimately lead to the fullness of life in the resurrection.
He is putting perspective on their suffering. Mark tells the story in such a way to make sense out of that, in the light of the death of Jesus. Jesus has risen. You will get through this just as Jesus did.
Jesus calms the storm
Keep this in mind as you listen to the Gospel for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary time. The disciples were in the boat with Jesus. They were following him. But they had not yet learned to trust in him.
In the boat at that moment, the disciples had more fear of the storm than trust in God.
This story highlights a key component of our following Christ. Jesus shows us that we too shall overcome even the greatest tragedy of death.
Both the early disciples and we who read this story today can learn from this story. Jesus is the model of trusting in the promises of God no matter what we are going through.
Thanks to Mark’s emphasis on suffering and death, we, in the midst of our own cries “My God, why have you forsaken me?” can ultimately rest in the assurance that we will rise with Jesus no matter what storms we encounter at any moment of our lives.
“The Lord addressed Job out of the storm…” (First reading)
- What is the worst thing that could happen to you?
- Can Mark’s gospel, and this story, in particular, help you through the very worst storms in your life?