12th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year B

Paul states that “the love of Christ overwhelms us” – how often have you meditated on the love of Christ and been overwhelmed by it?

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First Reading: Job 38:1, 8-11

  • We can often overlook the fact that the Lord answered Job. There can be great comfort in the rawness of Job’s crying out to God for answers, something which I’m sure everyone can sympathise with to a greater or lesser degree. The extraordinary thing is that God responds to our crying. The Bible itself is a testament to a dialogue between God and humanity.
  • Job utilises poetic language to give amazing physicality to God’s action in restraining the sea; how does this help us to understand God’s character?

Psalm: Psalm 106(107):23-26, 28-32

  • The psalmist speaks of sailors witnessing the wonders that God does in the deep; there is something in witnessing the amazing power of nature and referring it back to the Creator. You might like to reflect on incidents where the beauty or power of nature has moved you to worship God.
  • The psalm affirms, as Job did and as the Gospel will, the Lord’s power over water. The Israelite people were not seafarers, the sea was a potent symbol of danger and of the unknown. There is comfort in knowing that God is in control even of that chaos.
  • Many people in the ancient world believed in gods bound to or associated with particular geographical places. The sea was outside of Israel, and yet God remained in control; what does this imply about the Israelite understanding of God?

Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

  • Paul states that “the love of Christ overwhelms us” – how often have you meditated on the love of Christ for you personally and been overwhelmed by it?
  • Paul speaks here of the new creation. In Baptism we are made new. How can you connect these images with the water imagery of the other readings at this Mass?

Gospel: Mark 4:35-41

  • Once again, Mark’s gospel provides us with intricate, seemingly throwaway details. Here, for example, we’re told the disciples took Jesus in the boat “just as he was”. What do you think this means?
  • Jesus’ response to the fear of the disciples is to rebuke them for a lack of faith. How are we to understand faith in this context?
  • Jesus slept on through the tempest until the disciples woke him. Spiritually, this can be our experience during afflictions and trials; it can seem that God is distant or asleep, or perhaps not aware. What comfort does this passage offer in those situations?


The Babylonians had a story: there was a monstrous creature called Tiamat. She represented the sea and was the mother of almost all the gods and creatures on the earth.

One day, some of her children rose up and killed her husband Apsu. This enraged Tiamat and she made terrible war on her children.

Eventually she was defeated by Marduk, who used her body to create the world.

To the Babylonians Tiamat was the chaotic embodiment of the seas and oceans. She was terrifying: what is more frightening than massive waves and the dread of being drowned by them. Her chaos had to be brought into order, so she had to be defeated by Marduk and her chaos made to serve order by becoming the foundations of the ordered and structured world we now live in.

The Israelites lived for many years adjacent to or under the dominion of the Babylonians and their culture. It left a lasting impact. No doubt many of them would have known the story of Tiamat. The sea represented chaos and danger, something to be feared, something uncontrollable and untameable.

With that in mind, read again the words from Job in the first reading. Do you see what’s happening?

The chaotic overwhelming power of the sea was not defeated in a battle by one of its children but tamed from within by the word of its Creator: God spoke from the heart of the tempest. God wrapped it, bound it, and gave it a verbal command to exist by.

It’s that last verbal command that is so powerful. It’s picked up in the Gospel passage when the Sea of Galilee threatens the lives of the disciples in the midst of a tempest. Jesus speaks and gives it a command, a command which it obeyed.

There’s so much to unpack here, but let’s just look at two things:
First, God has no need to fight with his creation. He is in charge – he gives a command and creation obeys. Just like in the beginning: let there be light, and there was light. Or when bread and wine obey the words of God: this is my body, this is my blood.

Secondly, the God who spoke from the heart of the tempest to Job is the same who spoke to the tempest on the Sea of Galilee.
That’s why the disciples ask in awe: “Who can this be?”
This act of power by Jesus drives them to ask questions about who he is.

I spoke about this a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating again because it’s repeated in Mark: the focus is on who Jesus really is. The message is plain: Jesus and God are one.

At this point in the Gospel narrative, the disciples don’t fully know what that means. That’s ok, the Gospel will continue taking them and us on a journey to unpack that. For today, let’s just ponder on what it means for God to be the creator in charge of all things, and for Jesus and God to be one.


  • Catechism of the Catholic Church, 279-301: God the Creator
  • St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1.q.45.
  • Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth trilogy