Saturday, 30 January 2016

Week 3 Saturday (Year 2) -- 30 January 2016

Readings: 2 Samuel 12:1-7a,10-17: Ps 50; Mark 4:35-40

In Mark's account of the calming of the storm the disciples are afraid only after Jesus has stopped the storm and calmed the sea. What frightens them is not the storm: we can take it that as fishermen (some of them) they would have been familiar with storms on the lake. What frightens them is the divine power working through Jesus: in the Bible the One who commands the seas and sets limits to the waters and controls the winds is the Creator and Lord. This is why they are 'frightened with a great fear', filled with awe.

The forces of nature obey their Lord as the demons have obeyed him, as illnesses have obeyed him, as the Gadarene pigs will obey him (next Monday's gospel). All creatures are obedient. That is, they hear the voice of the Lord, they 'understand' it somehow, and they respond to it.

So what about the human creature? 'Have you no faith?', Jesus asks the disciples. Faith is the distinctively human response, the distinctively human obedience, to the Word of God. Having ears do you not hear? Having eyes do you not see? Having minds do you not understand? So what then about your faith, your free decision to assent to the truth of what you hear and see and understand?

Jesus is engaged in the work of establishing and sustaining faith in the disciples. We know from personal experience that there are moments when we must, once again, choose to believe. There are situations and events that present us very clearly and very directly with Jesus' question: 'have you no faith?' Even when we 'practice our faith' every day, we are still faced with these moments of decision and choice.

It is sometimes suggested that people are religious because religion offers comfort and consolation. Well it may, at times, but more often it seems to offer discomfort and perplexity. More often it brings us back to our freedom, or lack of it, and how we are exercising that freedom. Freedom is a great gift. Without freedom there would be no responsibility, no credit, no friendship, no love, no faith, no poetry; there would be no blame, no sin, no morality; artistic creativity would mean nothing.

When the prophet Nathan exposes his sin to him, King David, to give him credit, does not attempt to justify his actions. He does not seek refuge in excuses or mitigating circumstances, nor does he try to blame Bathsheba or anybody else. He simply says, 'I have sinned against the Lord'. There is something noble in this free admission of guilt. Just as we see human freedom in the confession of faith in God, so we see human freedom in the confession of sins. It is one reason why confession is good for the soul: we are acting nobly when we confess our sins.

On the other end of the spectrum is the freedom of Mary in the moment of the Annunciation, one of the central icons of the human participation in the work of salvation. 'Let it be done to me according to your word', Mary says, aligning her freedom with the will of the Heavenly Father. We celebrate her today, Saturday, and it is for this above all that we celebrate her. At the heart of her vocation, of her grace, is this free response to God's Word, this act of faith and love. In this she is a supreme model of the human being listening, understanding, and freely assenting.

'Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'

You will find here another version of this homily.

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