Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 23, 2024

June 23, 2024

PREVIOUSALLNEXT

June 23, 2024

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Teresa

Teresa

Thompson

Thompson

Many coastal communities across the world have churches named after Stella Maris – Our Lady, Star of the Sea. This title reminds us of Our Mother’s special protection for seafarers as they go about their often dangerous work, fishing or navigating their way through capricious weather and choppy waves. I recently saw an artist’s depiction of Stella Maris as Mary gazing down into her opened mantle, her arms wrapped around a diamond-shaped window through which you can see a ship sailing on a stormy sea. This depiction reminded me that all of us as human beings are on voyages, not only seafarers – as we move about life on Earth, we come up against uncharted waters and high seas.

Our responses to such voyages often involve confusion, anxiety, or even terror. In the chapters preceding today’s first reading, Job, bewildered in the aftermath of losing his family, his health, his riches, and all he held dear questions how God could have allowed these tragedies to fall on him. He has been obedient and faithful to God; these punishments are totally undeserved. In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples panic at the onset of the storm that forms over the lake, thrashing around their boat and threatening to pitch them into the deep. I imagine how much Job and the disciples must have been in touch with their smallness in these moments, acutely aware of their vulnerability, witnessing the power of God and God’s creation through the might of the whirlwind and the fury of the storm.  

I live in a context very different from that of the disciples, or Job. I live in a big, modern city where I have access to many comforts and conveniences, very separated from the natural world. As I contemplate these scripture passages, I find myself in awe of the ancient, elemental Earth, its dual nature of generative and lethal, and its many patterns and inner workings I do not understand. This awe – bordering on fear – holds a pressing reminder for humanity, particularly those with positions of status and privilege in the Global North. We are not in charge of the Earth – the Earth is in charge of us.

I am part of the millennial generation; I have inherited an Earth in crisis. There is no clear path to safety and prosperity for us in a country built on exploitation, a Church that is fractured and divided, a world forever at war. Perhaps the most existential threat we are forced to confront is climate change, a crisis that makes tenuous our very existence as a species. When I was born, there was already a hole in the ozone layer. Unless carbon emissions are drastically reduced by the time I turn forty, weather events will become more monstrous and extreme cold fronts will become commonplace. Whole ecosystems could collapse, harbingers of further terrible, unknowable consequences.

If we are serious about taking a real shot at overcoming the human-made crisis of climate change, we have to thrust ourselves into chaos – restructuring our economies, overhauling forms of energy production, reimagining how we steward and share land, changing how we shop, how we travel, how we eat. Chaos gets a bad rap, and oftentimes when these large-scale proposals for climate changes solutions are made, they are dismissed as too messy, too disruptive, too difficult to implement, too extreme. What these dismissals fail to acknowledge is that we find God in chaos, and God accompanies us in it.

God speaks to Job not through an angel in a dream, but out of a whirling storm. In Mark, Jesus initiates the voyage across the lake, effectively chartering the disciples directly into chaos, not around it. Chaos and order can both be of God – both the sea birthed by God and its proud waves, as well as the swaddling bands and limits God sets for it. Both the violent squall upending the disciples’ boat and the great calm Jesus renders from the wind and waves.  

In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul draws attention to our call to experience creation in a new way. We are called to understand the duality of all things – in dying Christ both destroyed death and restored life. If we can allow ourselves to die to the current order, our unhealthy and unsustainable ways of doing things, God will rise us up to new life. Dying in this way requires great trust, faith, and hope, because we do not yet know when we will get out of this crisis, what twists and turns the voyage will take, or what new life will look like on the other side.

Addressing climate change is a matter of self-preservation, yes, but also one of justice. The climate change crisis brings about so much unjust suffering – the least culpable for the crisis face the worst of its consequences. Manual laborers die in unprecedented summer heat, children of low-income neighborhoods sicken from toxic fumes from industrial waste dumped near their homes instead of the homes of the elite, island nations are battered or destroyed by hurricanes, mudslides, and floods. Climate change is a life issue: as my wife and I plan to begin a family, I wrestle with the reality of what kind of Earth my children will inherit when they are born. A climate crisis they did not create and did not ask for, a world that is too often unjust. A world where the wicked are not always punished and the righteous are not always rewarded. A world where corporations and the makers of war profit, while activists and prophets of peace are too often ignored, silenced, or even killed.

On that boat, amidst the rolling waves and thunder, Jesus was asleep. Emmanuel, God with us – as human and fragile as Job, as dependent on the grace and mercy of God as the disciples – at rest, serene and calm on the precipice of peril. I don’t understand that. I don’t know what it’s like to have so much faith that God is in control. I struggle to trust that the lives my children have will be worth living given the climate conditions they may face. And yet, I plan a family anyway – I choose to act out of hope.

In prayer, I try to picture myself on the stern of the boat with Jesus, rocked by the water, drenched by the rain. I remember the image I encountered of Stella Maris, Our Mother’s arms wrapped around the sea and its travelers. God is with us, we are held – through crisis, through chaos, through suffering, through all we do not understand.

First Reading

Jb 38:1, 8-11

PSALM

Ps 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31

Second Reading

2 Cor 5:14-17

GOSPEL

Mk 4:35-41
Read texts at usccb.org

Teresa Thompson

Teresa Thompson

Teresa Thompson is a writer, therapist, and amateur theologian based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a board member of the Metro NY chapter of Call To Action and serves as part of the Catholic Lesbians ministry and Healing Prayer ministry at the Church of Saint Francis Xavier. Teresa’s writing has been published by Geez Magazine and Ignatian Solidarity Network and can also be read on her Substack, Liturgy of the Ours. She will begin graduate study at Catholic Theological Union in Fall 2024. Originally hailing from the Caribbean and Ireland, Teresa worked in New York City’s public mental health system for seven years before founding her private practice, where her specialties include treating complex trauma and religious trauma. She loves being a friend, sister, daughter, wife, and dog mom.

MORE INFO/ CONNECT

Support Catholic Women Preach and Honor the "Mary Magdalene" in Your Life

Mary Magdalene was the first to proclaim the Good News of Easter! Celebrate her July 22nd Feast Day with Catholic Women Preach by making a donation in honor or memory of the Mary Magdalene in your life. We invite you to honorthose women who have shared the Good News with you: who have taught, raised, or in pired you on your faith journey.

Honor the Mary Magdalene in Your Life

Advertise with Catholic Women Preach: email Russ at russ@futurechurch.org