Homily for Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Year B: Job 38:1, 8-11; Ps 107; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

St. Lars Catholic Church, Uppsala (English Mass)


Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Believing has two components. The first is to trust someone in his or her claims or judgments. The second is the belief, i.e., what you hold to be true. In the Christian faith, these two components are completely intertwined: We trust that Jesus Christ can give eternal communion with God, beyond sin and death, because we hold it to be true what the eyewitnesses and the Church have claimed from the very beginning, viz. that Jesus is not an ordinary man but the Son of God, God incarnate, true God and true man. Who has risen from the dead. Who unchanged remains present in the world through his Church.

Jesus cannot be trusted unless we also believe in his divine nature. Not believing him would be hold that he is lying about himself, which is to judge Christ “by the standards of the flesh”, as the Apostle Paul says in the second reading today from Second Corinthians. Just as Paul himself, or Saul as he was then called, first did. Nor, of course, is it possible to hold the Church’s doctrine on Christ, and everything necessarily following from it, to be true, without trusting that he wants to bring us, and me too, to the Father. To be a Christian, then, is to have both faith and belief; to believe “in” and “that”, at the same time.

“Believing that” includes believing in the miracles of Jesus as real, historical events that confirm both his identity as the liberator, the Messiah, God’s anointed one, like the ancient prophecies had foretold, and his divinity. God, who is the creator of matter and the establisher of the laws of nature, of course knows exactly how to use and transgress what he has created, if he wants, to tell us something about himself. In the Old Testament, God’s omnipotence is particularly emphasized through his power over stormy waters, which in a desert culture was perceived as very frightening. This was expressed in the first reading from the book of Job. By concretely exercising that power in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus tells his disciples that he is God.

Being the Word of God made flesh, everything Jesus did in this world, including the miracles, speaks the same message to all times, until the end of time – and thus also in our time. They tell us who Jesus really is. They help us understanding God’s fulfilment of the Old Testament in the New. Without that understanding, most of what Jesus says and does is incomprehensible.

But the historically real miracles also show us important aspects of our Christian life, here and now. We are all on a journey through time, full of dangerous storms, attacks and temptations wanting to throw us off course and prevent us to reach our goal. This is true for us personally and it is true for the whole Church. The Church Fathers saw in the story of Jesus calming the storm, a picture of how a life of Christian virtue – i.e., in accordance with the commandments of God as proclaimed and explained by the Catholic Church on behalf of Christ – requires us to practice daily surrender to Christ. A consequence of that for a Catholic is surrender to the Church, whose holiness doesn’t depend on the excellence of us in her, unfortunately as we are all painfully aware of, many of the worst sins are found also in the Church. The Church is holy because the Holy Spirit is always present in a special way in her visible signs given by Christ himself: the seven sacraments and the Teaching office, i.e., the Pope and the bishops in union with him, administering, strengthening and transmitting – never changing – the faith of the Apostles.

To entrust oneself to Christ is, e.g., to express daily, perhaps as a short prayer each morning, one’s intention to seek, understand and carry out God’s will in large and small matters, and to ask for the power and ability from God to do it. To entrust oneself to the Church, the mystical body of Christ of which we are a part, is to allow the teaching of the Church to help directing the search for God’s will, especially in ruling out where it is not found, and to seek the good reasons when the Church’s stance may be difficult to understand or to embrace, praying for the ability to embrace it, rather than publicly criticizing or rejecting it. St. Ignatius of Loyola called this trusting attitude “to think with the Church”.

This leads us to another kind of storm that rocks the boat consists by ideologically coloured battles over “reforms” of the Catholic Church, which do not aim at the Church deepening her understanding of her faith and improving to proclaim it, but at aligning the Church more to the world, with views, opinions, lifestyles and identities, which you can get everywhere, making her less of a mediator of God’s eternal will and orders. God’s will and orders however don’t change like us and the times. Otherwise, God wouldn’t be God and ultimately there would be no hope. Demands on the Church to embrace what the secular culture celebrates at every turn, will let the stormy water into the boat.

The outcome of such “reforms” can viz. be predicted. Empirical research, both from Sweden and abroad, shows what happens to Christian communities adapting to the spirit of the world instead of remaining faithful to the Holy Spirit: fewer people attending services and more difficulties in recruiting new pastors. And why is obvious: those whose voices for the values of the world want to avoid being contradicted by God’s commandments, rejoice when public calls to repentance are silenced. But of course, they don’t want or need to attend a service just to hear precisely that, which they daily hear in their own minds, in politics and in the media.

Instead of such a self-destruction, we as Church, individually and collectively, need to daily relearn and reaffirm our trust in Jesus Christ as he is, and not as we construct him, like our weaknesses and sins want him to be. A confidence that it is only Jesus Christ, never us, only the supernatural grace and nothing already existing by itself in us or in nature, who can bring us to the desired haven we seek, to speak with today’s responsorial psalm. I.e., to eternal life with God.

As Christ now comes to us, truly present, as real as his miracles, not symbolically, in the Holy Eucharist, let us pray that our individual lives and the life of the whole Church, following the example of the Virgin Mary, will be imbued with the one reform that we and the whole Church always need, in every age, including ours: a stronger faith and the ability to live, and so proclaim, it. Amen.