Is God Asleep?
User's Guide to Sunday, June 21
Sunday, June 21, is the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
Job 38:1, 8-11; Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41
Today’s readings are the perfect metaphor for the relationship between God, the natural world and us. We often misunderstand each of those relationships. On the one hand, many people can think we totally dominate the natural world, that human beings can create our own world, deciding that we are the masters of the universe. Then, on the other hand, many people think of God as the creator who often seems to have retreated from his creation, the supposedly powerful God who nonetheless watches helplessly as chaos ruins the beauty of the things he has made.
It only takes some good strong weather to remind us of the truth. In the Gospel, the master lakemen set out on their journey, but soon they find they are no match for the first storm that comes along. In Mark’s colorful language, “A violent squall came up, and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.”
Mark contrasts that harsh description with the observation that, meanwhile, Jesus was “asleep on a cushion.” It sounds so much like what can happen in our lives: When the world overpowers us, we may imagine God reclining somewhere on an air mattress, enjoying heavenly bliss. We might even feel like praying as the apostles do: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Only we might say: Do you not care that philosophies of selfishness are taking over our schools, our neighborhoods and our way of life? Do you not care that we are awash in a world of harsh opponents who are tearing away foundation stones of our civilization: the family, religious freedom and the right to life?
In the Gospel, when Jesus says, “Quiet! Be Still!” you get the sense that he is saying this not only to the wind, but to the apostles: “Relax! Trust me!”
They are wrong to question God’s care for them. In fact, what the storm is showing them isn’t that God has forgotten him, but that they have forgotten him. They have gone from gratefully accepting his generous gifts to expecting his gifts as their right. They now expect life to be comfortable and storm-free. In fact, their job in life is to cleave to the Lord, not the other way around. Their job is to follow him, and he can only be found in calm, quiet and stillness.
The storm that rages around us today is no different. God knows the storm is there; he cherishes the family, religious freedom and the right to life more than we do. He will quiet the storm in time — in fact, he is already quieting it. A hundred years from now, we will look back and see what we were supposed to learn from the storm: We will learn that we should never take the family, religious freedom and the right to life for granted the way we did as a culture — and should have defended them more fiercely from the first attacks long ago. Because the Lord may be sleeping, but he is not unaware.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.