12th Sunday Ordinary Time B June 25, 2006 “Waking Up Jesus”

Homily — 12th Sunday OT B June 25, 2006

 Rembrandt Storm at Sea

 We return to Sundays in Ordinary Time this Sunday, for the first time in over three months.  And in this Sunday’s Gospel, we see Our Lord Jesus do something truly extra-ordinary, so extra-ordinary that, in all the events of Christ’s life recorded in the Scriptures, this is the only one occasion that we see Jesus doing such a thing.

The extra-ordinary and unique thing Jesus does in today’s reading is sleep.

Jesus was in the stern (of the boat), asleep on a cushion.  There are many passages where Christ exercises power over the laws of nature. But Jesus is caught snoozing nowhere else but here in all of Sacred Scripture.

For example, there’s no explicit mention of the Baby Jesus sleeping in the manger, or sleeping during His forty days and forty nights in the desert.  After one real long day, which began with Jesus teaching and healing people, continued with Him traveling a long distance, and finally ended with Him feeding of five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, Jesus calls it a night by going alone up a mountain and spending the whole night in prayer.

On another occasion, Jesus spends the whole night praying about which Twelve Disciples He should pick be His Twelve Apostles that coming morning.  Finally, you’d think Jesus would have wanted a good night’s sleep before dying on the Cross on Good Friday. But no, He chooses to go to the Garden and pray, and He even makes Peter and James and John stay awake with Him! On another occasion, Jesus spends the whole night praying about which Twelve Disciples He should pick be His Twelve Apostles that coming morning. 

Finally, you’d think Jesus would have wanted a good night’s sleep before dying on the Cross on Good Friday. But no, He chooses to go to the Garden and pray, and He even makes Peter and James and John stay awake with Him!

But here, and only here, we find Jesus in the stern, which is the back of the Boat, sleeping away on a nice comfy cushion. 

Now, this isn’t to say that Jesus didn’t sleep on other occasions — we can probably safely conclude that Jesus the Son of God did sleep, just as He ate and drank and did everything a human does except sin.  But the Gospel is concerned with the things Jesus did which are essential for us to know in order for us to get to Heaven and have the fullness of Life.  And Jesus is shown awake in every other passage and asleep in only this passage, because that day in the boat, the disciples forgot to wake Jesus up.

You know, there’s a very famous Psalm in the Old Testament, Psalm 121, the one that begins I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall come my help?/My help is in the name of the Lord who made Heaven and earth.  Then Psalm 121 says
 

May the LORD never allow you to stumble
Let Him sleep not, your guardian;
No, He neither sleeps nor slumbers
Israel’s guardian, the LORD.

God never sleeps, He is always watching over His chosen people, rescuing them from danger and leading them into calmer waters.  And so Jesus, God the Son incarnate, in the Scriptures is seen neither sleeping nor slumbering as He ushers in the Kingdom of the Father.

But notice how Psalm 121 says Let Him sleep not. Do not let the Lord fall asleep, or else noone will be guarding you.  And this was the big mistake of the disciples that day on the sea of Galilee. The storm picked up, the waves broke over the boat, and they forgot they had Jesus with them, they had let Him fall asleep in the back of their boat.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, how often are we like those disciples in today’s Gospel, both individually in our own lives and collectively as the Church!

How often in our own lives, as we journey across the sea which is our life on earth, do we put Jesus in the back of the boat and say “here’s a cushion, make yourself comfortable, I can do it on my own”. We put our faith life asleep and proceed to steer our ship into treacherous waters. And Jesus is always the gentleman, He respects our wishes, He doesn’t force the steering wheel from us.
And then, when we’re in the choppy water and panicking, we can even forget what part of our big boat we last saw Jesus in. We might even forget He’s even on the boat with us!

But no matter how rough the waves and wind gets, Jesus never abandons the ship of a baptized believer.

It would be much better however my brothers and sisters, if we make sure Jesus is awake and beside us at the front of the ship as we steer the course through life.

And finally, going beyond the confines of our private lives and looking at the big picture of the Church we are all members of, we see that the Church, the Bark of Peter, is currently weathering some pretty violent squalls herself in our generation.

And because of storms from without and within, the waves are breaking over the boat: and so we’ve seen in the past 50 years a serious decline in Sunday Worship, a disregard for Christian marriage and traditional Catholic moral teachings, a shortage of priests and religious to lead and educate, and the continued widespread idol worship of sex and material goods which has led to an increased disrespect for human life.

We can be tempted to look at all these problems of our modern world and say to Jesus “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  But the solution to all these problems can be found in this extra-ordinary, unique Gospel: we as a Church must wake up Jesus and get Him to the front of the boat, pronto.

When this boat which is the Catholic Church begins again to let Jesus take the wheel, when we as God’s people start acting again like God’s chosen people by living by faith according to the Gospel, the waves that threaten us and the rest of humanity will be stilled, for Jesus will have awoken again in our society.

May we approach this Eucharist with a burning love for Jesus and with sincere sorrow for the times we’ve put Him in the back of the boat, so that Christ will be fully awake and alive in our hearts, that He may still whatever storms come our way.

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