17 June 2021

'The love of Christ overwhelms us.' Sunday Reflections, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B


Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 4:35-41 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The very first pastoral visit outside of Rome of Pope Francis was to the small island of Lampedusa, the most southerly part of Italy. He went there on 8 July 2013 because of his concern about the plight of many migrants and refugees trying to get from North Africa to Europe through Lampedusa and the many who died in trying to do so. The vast majority of these were exploited 'boat people' who had spent all they had, handing over their money to unscrupulous persons who were becoming rich by living off the poor and not caring whether they lived or died.

In his homily that day Pope Francis asked, Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families? 

The question the Pope asked in a way echoes that of the Apostles in the boat to Jesus: Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? 

 Eithne, Mediterranean, 2015

In May 2015 LÉ Eithne, the flagship of the Irish Naval Service with a crew of 55, engaged in Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean along with ships of navies of other European Union countries, in an effort to rescue 'boat people' trying to cross from Libya to Europe. Between May and November that year this small vessel rescued 8,592 men women and children. By the time Operation Sophia ended in 2017 Irish naval vessels had rescued more than 10,000 refugees. At the moment the Irish Naval Service has a total personnel of fewer than 1,100, with only five of its nine ships in service due to a lack of recruits.

It is estimated that between 2014 and the present around 21,000 undocumented immigrants have died trying to reach Italy from North Africa, 2016 being the worst year

So this Sunday's gospel speaks to us of a situation that is all too common in the contemporary world.

The Apostles discovered that Jesus did care: he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And he shows that same care to the refugees in the Mediterranean and in other parts of the world through the authorities, agencies and individuals who are trying to alleviate their immediate dangerous situations while others try to deal with the roots and causes of those situations.

There is an expression in the English language, 'We're all in the same boat', meaning especially in a difficult or dangerous situation that all are equal and all are responsible in some way for changing that situation. In his encyclical, Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home, Pope Francis echoes this (No 13): The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home. 

We can and should pray for all those caught up in the human tragedy of refugees and asylum seekers desperately seeking a better life as they flee from areas of conflict and hopelessness, being exploited ruthlessly by others in their plight - surely an expression of the reality of evil, of sin and of the Devil that Pope Francis frequently speaks about - and often losing their lives in the process. And we can and should pray for those working with refugees, whether in emergency situations or at the level of administration where important decisions are made about the future of individuals and families.

And the Second Reading, though it's not thematically related to the First Reading and the Gospel which are related, gives us some points to consider. The Jerusalem Bible translation reads, The love of Christ overwhelms us. Other versions give, The love of Christ controls us / urges us on / compels us / impels us / presseth us / is a compelling motive . . . But the Jerusalem Bible evokes for me, in the context of the other two readings, a great wave of God's love as distinct from a wave of destruction.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
Katsushika Hokusai [WikipediaSource of illustration]

The Second Reading also speaks of creation: From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. By virtue of our baptism each of us is a new creation. And by virtue of the mission that Jesus gave all of us who are baptised to Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15) we are called to let every human being know that God wants each of them to be in Christ so as to be a new creation

We are called not just to rescue people in danger of drowning but rather to invite people to join us on the Barque of Peter - the ship that is the Church - so that they may come to know the Lord Jesus who, through his Holy Spirit, wants to lead us to our eternal home. We must never lose sight of our central mission as Church.

To mix metaphors, I conclude with a quotation from the Eighth Sermon of St Columban that I use at the top of the homepage of this blog: Since we are travellers and pilgrims in the world, let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of our roadway is our home.

Responsorial Psalm [NAB - Philippines, USA]

Fr John Moran
(22 June 1926 - 11 June 2021)

Please pray for Columban Father John Moran who died last week in Bristol, Rhode Island. We were together in the Columban college formation program in Cebu City in the early 1990s. He was a delightful person to live with, a true Christian gentleman and a great example to our seminarians.

Father John loved sailing and had a small boat in Bristol, where the Columban retirement home, formerly a seminary, is by the sea. The name of the boat is Santo Niño (Holy Child). May the Lord who rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!" welcome Father John into a safe harbour.

Sailing By
Composed by Ronald Binge
Played by The Perry-Gardner Orchestra

Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 6-20-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 8:18-23.  Gospel: Luke 5:1-1i.


Authentic Beauty

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel, 21 November 2009.

The Padstow Lifeboat
Composed by Sir Malcolm Arnold
Played by the St Dennis Band

The village of St Dennis, where the band is from, is 25 minutes by car from Padstow and 45 minutes from Carbis Bay, where the recent G7 summit meeting was held. These places are all in Cornwall in south-west England. The Volunteers of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have saved countless lives off the coasts of Britain and Ireland down the years.

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