Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

By Father Paul Nord, O.S.B.

Sunday Scripture

First Reading: Job 38:1, 8-11; Response: Psalm 107:23-26, 28-31; Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Gospel: Mark 4:35-41

The book of Job is quite long. Job’s misfortune and suffering are well-established in the first three chapters of Job. In Job 4 to 27, Job’s three friends (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar) each give multiple long speeches as they opine on God’s justice and the causes of human suffering. Job repeatedly asserts that he is unaware of any personal sin that would be a just cause for his suffering. Then in chapters 29-31, Job contrasts his past — when God blessed him — with his present terrible suffering. Job is so devastated by mockery and hardship that he utters a series of curses upon himself. Job calls upon God to punish him — if he has committed any specific, serious sin. But Job wants to know how he has sinned against God that he should suffer so.

After this, another man — Elihu — angrily tells Job that God reveals his justice to humanity — even through suffering. Elihu insists that Job should not expect an answer from God. Elihu tells Job to fear God and to accept his suffering without complaint. But God does choose to respond to Job’s complaints. Finally in Job 38-41, the Lord God responds to Job’s questions about the justice of his suffering. Today’s reading is the beginning of God’s response. Note that “The LORD addressed Job out of the storm.” This storm (or whirlwind) is an expression of God’s great power.

In his frustration, Job has questioned God. Now God questions Job: “Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4). Also: “Who shut within doors the sea” (38:8)? God is emphasizing that he is all-powerful and all-knowing — and that Job is not. God has created everything — and yet Job is questioning God’s justice. Job is ignorant of God’s purposes and wisdom. This is true of every human person. We can see ourselves in Job, as we sympathize with him. God also emphasizes the problem of human pride — especially our desire to rearrange the created world according to our desires.

As Christians, we know that God’s ultimate answer to the question of human suffering is the person of Jesus Christ. God’s Son has shared our suffering and even died for us. We receive salvation from God by imitating Christ in every way — loving and patiently suffering as Christ did. This is not easy, but it transforms us into Christ’s image and brings new life in God.

Next, from 2 Corinthians, the key phrase is “whoever is in Christ is a new creation” (5:17). This is Paul’s conclusion from his previous statements. First: “One died for all; therefore, all have died.” This points to our sharing in the death of Christ. Second, Paul gives the reason for Christ’s death — so that all who willingly share in Christ’s death might also share in his new life by his resurrection. In this way, we become a new creation in Christ.

The phrase “new creation” emphasizes how Jesus has radically changed the relationship between God and humanity. The Son of God has taken our human nature and shared our lived experiences. By sharing our suffering and death, Jesus has transformed what we fear most into the means of our salvation. By participating in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we become the adopted sons and daughters of God — we are created anew.

Paul says “the love of Christ impels us.” Paul means: “Christ’s love compels us (to do this).” Jesus commanded his disciples: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Through the self-sacrifice of his cross, Christ has loved and redeemed us. Paul has received this gift. He realizes that he is therefore obligated to show the same self-sacrificial love to others —proclaiming the Gospel of Christ in word and deed. Paul no longer judges by the values of this world — he considers these to be “old things” that “have passed away.” In Christ, we have received “new things” — above all, new life in Christ.

A key question is what it means for us to be “in Christ.” In Romans 8:9-11, Paul says that to be “in Christ” is to have the Holy Spirit dwell in us, such that we live in the righteousness of God. Since God is the source of all life, the indwelling of God’s spirit “will give life to your mortal bodies also” (Romans 8:11). Further, to be “in Christ” is to belong to Christ — to be fully united with him. Thus we must unite ourselves to Christ in our every word and action. We have become — and are becoming — a “new creation” as we are conformed to the image of Christ.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus reveals who he is by what he does. Jesus cures the sick and expels unclean spirits — again and again. Such power belongs to God — and so Jesus is demonstrating that he is the Son of God, who has entered into our broken world.

In today’s gospel, Jesus demonstrates his power over the created world by calming a great storm. Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. Violent winds begin to blow, and huge waves threaten to sink their boat. Meanwhile, Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat. The disciples are deeply afraid that they will die. Their panic is expressed in sarcasm: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” The disciples’ rude words to Jesus are evidence that this is an eyewitness account of this event. When we are afraid we might soon die, we often forget to say “please” and “thank you.” In their parallel accounts of this event, Matthew and Luke portray the disciples as more polite to Jesus in their pleading that he save them from the storm.

When the disciples wake Jesus, he immediately rebukes the wind and commands the sea: “Quiet!” Immediately “there was great calm.” Again, Jesus has revealed who he is — God’s Son. Seeing this, the disciples ask: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”