Saturday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time Lectionary: 322
Reading 1 2 sm 12:1-7a, 10-17
Then Nathan said to David: “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’”
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan answered David: “The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the LORD by this deed, the child born to you must surely die.” Then Nathan returned to his house.
The LORD struck the child that the wife of Uriah had borne to David, and it became desperately ill. David besought God for the child. He kept a fast, retiring for the night to lie on the ground clothed in sackcloth. The elders of his house stood beside him urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor would he take food with them.
Responsorial Psalm ps 51:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
Gospel mk 4:35-41
In yesterday’s gospel, we were given two parables of the Kingdom which describe the growth of the Kingdom as a gradual process. The reign of God is not something that will happen overnight. It begins small but it will certainly end in a way beyond human expectation because it is the work of God. Following this message of the imperceptible, slow but sure realization of the Kingdom, the scripture readings today give us two concrete illustrations from the lives of God’s people when they struggled to grow in maturity in their faith.
Indeed, whilst we must walk by faith, not by sight, faith is not a given. Faith, as Jesus says in the gospel, like a seed that is planted, requires time to grow and come to full maturity. This is an important reminder and consolation for us, especially those of us who are impatient in wanting to grow in holiness. Quite often in our struggles to be faithful to God, we continue sinning. This makes us feel lousy and disappointed with ourselves. We become discouraged at the slow progress and as a consequence, we give up trying to be good or being active in Church. Hence, we must take a leaf from King David and the disciples of Jesus.
In the first place, we have the example of King David who grew in faith. He did not become a great king overnight but went through many trials, mistakes and failures in love and fidelity before he learnt how to be a good and holy king worthy of being the Anointed One of the Lord. Today’s first reading reveals to us the humility and contrition of King David when confronted by the Prophet Nathan for the sin of adultery he committed by seducing his own army officer’s wife and making her pregnant. In attempting to save face, he had him killed in battle. King David paid a heavy price for this sin. But he accepted the punishment from the Lord with regret, but without resentment. He repented of his sin and through his mistakes, learnt to be a great and holy king, obedient to the Lord and always leading his people.
Even more telling is the faith of the disciples when their boat was caught in the storm. We can be certain the situation must have been rather precarious, considering the fact that we are not dealing with those who have no experience at sea. The fact that the disciples were afraid in spite of the fact that they were fishermen and therefore not unfamiliar with such bad weather, indicates that the storm must have been quite violent and dangerous. They would have met many stormy times before, but this one was life-threatening, so much so they cried out to Jesus in fear, “Master, do you not care? We are going down!”
Such sentiments of abandonment and accusation that God does not care for us are common to us as well. When times are good, we can praise and thank God, singing marvelous praises of Him, of His majesty and power. Of course, some forget about Him all together when they are self-sufficient and do not need God’s help. So long as they can manage on their own, they do not see the need to rely on God. They live in self-deception, thinking that because they have money and position, they can do without God’s grace. For this reason, our faith is tested only when we go through the storms of life. The acid test of whether we have faith in God is not in good times but in bad, turbulent and troubled times. When we are down and out, when there is no longer anything or anyone we can depend on, especially ourselves, then God is the final answer to all our needs. However, most do not trust God and come to Him only when all other resorts have failed. God is always the last hope for proud humanity, who thinks that all problems can be resolved by science, technology, power, money and influence.
In contrast we have Jesus who was apparently quite unperturbed by the storm. He was “in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep.” How could he remain so calm when even the fishermen in the face of the raging storm knew that their lives were at stake? He was so completely at rest in His Father’s bosom that the He did not exhibit any fear at all. It shows Jesus’ total confidence in His Father’s love and protection for Him. In other words, it demonstrates the faith of Jesus in His Father’s divine providence. He trusted in His Father’s care for Him.
It was the same faith that gave Him the power to still the storm. Upon waking up, with confidence He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet now! Be calm!” It is significant that He addressed the sea in a similar way He commanded the Evil Spirits as well. In reprimanding and commanding the sea to be still, it appears that there was an evil force that was causing the storm. For this reason, we can be confident that whatever storms we are going through in life, whether the problems we are facing are from the outside, such as the loss of our job, a mistake we have to face, a terminal illness we have to embrace or our enemies to contend with; or the storms within ourselves, such as our anger, hatred, insecurity, fear, anxiety, the Lord will be able to put all these storms to rest if only we learn to trust in Him and place our security in Him. He can even deal with any evil spirits that oppress us from within or without.
At times, He might appear to be sleeping and not care about us, but He does not abandon us. When we feel so overwhelmed by our problems and responsibilities in life, we can be certain that He is always with us and waiting for the opportunity to intervene in our lives. He cares deeply for us and He knows when and how to help us in the most effective way. He might not calm the storms immediately, for in His wisdom He is not just concerned with our immediate needs but our personal growth and long term destiny as well. He wants us to grow in faith, in understanding and in maturity through the storms of life. If He were to rescue us at the onset of the storm, we might never learn anything from our mistakes, or face the challenges of life. Crises in life are always opportunities for growth, rather than obstacles.
When facing the storms of life, we need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, His mercy and His love, just as King David did. Although his son died, he knew the reason for the Lord’s mercy. Watching his son die was perhaps the conversion experience for David. The responsorial psalm which he composed is certainly expressive of his sentiments, a man who truly repented of his sins and turned to God for mercy. He did not resent God when his petition for his son to be spared of death was not granted. He took everything in faith.
The truth is that many of us do not know Jesus intimately enough to have faith in Him, unlike Jesus’ faith in His Father, especially when He was hanging on the cross. Even in absurdity and complete failure and helplessness, Jesus entrusted His mission to His Father. Against all hope, Jesus trusted that His Father will vindicate Him. Jesus could entrust His life to His Father because He knew His Father’s love. What about us? Do we know Jesus well enough to trust in His judgment, His mercy and love? Or do we try to tell Him how to act and what He must do to put things right? We can only enjoy the same peace that Jesus gave to His disciples provided we too come to know Him. It is significant that at the end of the miracle, Jesus reproached them saying, “Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?”
The reason of course is given in the next sentence, “They were filled with awe and said to one another, “Who can this be? Even the wind and sea obey him.’” This question is now addressed to us. Who is Jesus in your estimation? Who is Jesus to you in your heart? Do you truly believe that He is the Son of God and the Son of Man? Do you really believe He died and resurrected? The truth is that many of us are merely parroting what the Church believes about Jesus but we do not make the Church’s faith our own. Without a personal conviction of the identity and person of Jesus, we cannot surrender our lives to Him in faith.
Hence, we must seek to grow in faith. We cannot be complacent in our faith and simply leave everything to chance. It is true that faith is a gift from God. But this gift is given only to those who are receptive and desire it. Through our efforts, making time for personal prayer, worship, reading of the Word of God and celebrating the Eucharist, we make it possible for Jesus to engage us in a relationship with Him. Through the graces received, we will, as we come to know Jesus in the head, eventually be able to translate doctrines into a relationship with Him in prayer and in life. We must activate our faith in action, trusting Him and surrendering ourselves to His holy will. By following His Word and submitting to His divine will, we will begin to see the wisdom and the power of God in arranging everything perfectly for us. As a consequence, our faith will grow from strength to strength when we see the results and the miracles of what faith can do for us. We will begin to trust in the Lord more and more.