12th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – June 20, 2021

I don’t know that I will ever listen to the gospel story just proclaimed and not think of its proclamation by Pope Francis when the world found itself at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic just before Easter, a year ago.  Perhaps you recall that moment when the Holy Father walked into a dark, empty, rain-slicked Saint Peter’s Square to pray and to offer an extraordinary blessing for a suffering world.

The Holy Father likened us to the disciples in the gospel, who were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.  The disciples found it difficult to understand how and why Jesus could lay fast asleep in the midst of such a perilous moment in their lives.  I suspect that we have all wondered the same thing – during the pandemic that has enveloped our world for the past year and a half – and at various challenging moments throughout our lives.

Jesus’ response to the disciples – and us:  “Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?”  …  Pope Francis, in his reflections on the gospel passage, stated, “faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation.”  Faith begins when we are humble enough to acknowledge that by ourselves, we are not self-sufficient.  Yet sadly, for as much as the past year has taught us that harsh reality, our fears can be overwhelming.

While Jesus challenged the disciples – and us – to cast aside our fears and to place our trust in God’s promises, it seems that he also understood quite well that fear is the most crippling of emotions.  So much good has not been done in the past, so much good is not being done in the present, and so much good will never be done in the future because of unfounded fears and a lack of courage.

We’re all afraid of something, aren’t we?  …  We’re afraid of thunder and lightning – cancer – our kids taking the car out by themselves for the first time – snakes – the dark – suffering – letting go of life – meaninglessness.  …  Even Jesus prayed that the cross would pass him by the night before he died.

Yet, the scriptures remind us that when we’re paralyzed by fear, the only thing that can and will give us hope is our faith, which emerges when we finally realize that we have nowhere else to turn but to God.  …  Make no mistake about it, faith won’t magically change the reality of our lives.  It won’t automatically cure our illnesses and lift our concerns.  It may not even dispel all of our fears.  But faith enables us live our lives with hope!

Why?  Because authentic faith for us as Christians is rooted in a relationship with the person of Jesus.  It was Jesus, after all, who faced the greatest fear that any of us can ever confront in life – suffering, death and extinction – and overcame it in the Easter event by rising from the dead.  And it is Jesus who promises us a share in his life through faith.  …  Do you recall these words from John 3:16?  We see that reference on bumper stickers and on banners hanging at football games.  Sear these into your hearts as you confront your greatest fears.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

So, brothers and sisters, in all that life unfolds, have no fear – something that is easier said than done, but something that is indeed possible through faith.  …  And why?  …  For you and I are always held firmly in the palm of God’s loving hand – a reality that while not guaranteeing us a perfect world nonetheless enables us to face all that life unfolds with hope!