This photo of Jesus calming the sea reflects the Gospel for June 20, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Photo from
This photo of Jesus calming the sea reflects the Gospel for June 20, the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Photo from
Gospel Reflection for June 20, 2021, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?”

This plea of desperation from the disciples as they struggle to stay afloat in a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee while Jesus lay asleep on the boat resonates well with us today. The struggle to find God in the midst of life’s challenges, a crisis, or in the face of abject terror is real and visceral for most of us.

We do tend to want God to respond “now” when we cry out to him. Often our prayers are answered, which gives us a sense of hope, yet they more often remain seemingly unanswered, which opens us to doubt and fear.

We are all in this boat called life together, a boat that like any other, knows periods of calm seas and at other times, great turbulence. As individuals, our lives are often rocky and uncertain, and we can feel pitched back and forth. During those times we rely on each other – just as the disciples here had to be working together to try and save their boat – to weather the storm. If the disciples were working against each other, or had any one of them just tried to go it alone, the boat would have capsized.

One has to wonder how long they fought against the tempest before they decided to rouse a sleeping Jesus. Is there a reason why they didn’t reach out to him sooner? Were they overly confident in their own skills as men of the sea that they knew a tradesman would be of little help? They were in their element, not his.

I have often wondered whether or not Jesus was really asleep or whether he was just testing the disciples to see how long it would take for them to plead for his help. Sadly, they waited until the very end – when all was almost lost – before they decided to wake Jesus.

They had an on-going relationship with Jesus, and as his disciples, were in continual need of formation, and so Jesus’ intentional napping was meant to teach them (and us) an important lesson.

Our lives as disciples should be filled with the constancy of the discernment of God’s will. All of our life’s actions, decisions, and musings should include the Lord within our internal dialogue. Even in those areas of life where we might feel that we have some “expertise” we still require the deeper understanding that the Lord can give to us.

The Lord is asleep in the boat because the disciples ignored him and decided to do it the way that they were used to doing it. After all, storms on the Sea of Galilee are common and often quite terrifying. As professionals they didn’t perceive a need for Jesus to be of any help to them.

We have all been there in many aspects of our lives. There is that deep sense of rugged individualism that still pervades our national psyche, and we are confident that we can make it on our own. We pay homage to the self-made entrepreneur or business person. We like to boast when someone has pulled up their own bootstraps. It is hard to ask for help, even from our closest relatives and friends. How much harder is it for many of us to cry out to the Lord for strength, wisdom, healing, and the insights that he there to offer to us.

That day on the Sea of Galilee was a day of great humility for the disciples. They learned in a moment of sheer desperation that they were dependent on the Lord and that they were not in control of their own lives or their own destiny. The plea, “do you not care” seemed to come easy to them. They were presumptuous, as we often are, that the Lord would intervene without their asking. And while the Lord works to protect us from evil, we still need to be open to a relationship with him and have the courage and the humility to ask.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.