Surviving life’s storms: A homily for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

stormGood morning Church.  It’s a true joy for me to be here today. It’s my two week-a-versary. I was ordained a priest two weeks ago, so I’m still a baby priest and enjoying it. I love being a priest. I got free Arby’s the other day. It’s been terrific. They say if you want to preach a non-controversial homily, stay away from politics and religion. Stick with the weather. So today I’m preaching about the weather. But I feel I’ve been given a license to do it given the pope’s encyclical on the climate and the stormy readings we just heard from Mark and Job, plus, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we haven’t seen the sun in a month. So I’m preaching about weather today.

There is a story told about a man named Christopher. It was a normal summer day when suddenly, out of nowhere, a deadly storm set in. It was no doubt as fierce as the storms described in our first reading and the Gospel today. It was a horrible storm: wild winds and deadly downpours, thunderous clamors from above and bolts of lightning. It was something terrible, something quite fierce. And yet, in the midst of it, there was this man Christopher. He was trudging through the mud mightily, attempting to reach some safety, some shelter, but the more he trudged, the worse the storm got.

As he walked, the rain collected to the point that he was now plowing through what felt like a river. He could barely touch the bottom of it, and when he did he only seemed to get stuck in the mud. And yet the rain kept coming: it flushed his eyes and forced him to squint to where he could hardly see. The flood grew and waves kept on splashing into his face, almost over his head. He was gasping and panting for air, he was surrounded by gloom, and his legs—his legs were just plain tired. Every bone in his body ached. Everything in him made him want to give up, to throw in the towel.

But then, at that moment of despair, he remembered that there was a child on his shoulders. And he knew that he had to fight on. He had to reach the shore. No matter what. When he got to the other side, the story goes, the child appeared to this man Christopher as Christ. Hence the name Christopher—Christ bearer. And this child spoke to Christopher, “You carried the whole world on your shoulders when you carried me.”

That man’s name is Saint Christopher, a third century saint of our Church whose feast day is next month. I suppose that I thought of this story today for four readings. First, because of the stormy readings we just heard. Second, because of all the traveling I’ve been doing lately. (St. Christopher is the patron of travelers.) Third, no matter where I’ve gone, it’s rained, it’s stormed. And fourth, because I believe St. Christopher is the image of a good father and today is Father’s Day. So allow me to say something about all that.

Today, the Church asks us to reflect upon the storms of our own lives, the difficulties that present themselves to us that seem too much, too great, that seem beyond our strength to come out of. Sometimes they are unexpected storms—an invitation to the boss’s office that seems innocent but costs us our jobs, a routine checkup that turns up something terminal, 60 hour work weeks that seem too much, a broken heart, a marriage on the fritz. Sometimes these storms of life last a long time, sometimes they threaten our very existence as they did for Christopher, sometimes we don’t even know where they came from, where they’re going, or what aftermath they will leave behind for us and others to prevail over. But the Gospel tells us today that the storms of life will never overcome us because we have Christ. I think Mother Teresa is the one who said that “God never puts us through more than we can handle, but I just wish he didn’t trust me so much!” God trusts us to deal with the storms of life more than we trust ourselves.

When the storm waters rage high and all seems lost and we feel like giving up, it’s helpful to think of the child on our shoulders, think about the ones who depend upon us, and get to the other side….if not for ourselves, at least for them. St. Paul puts it this way in our second reading: We are to live no longer simply for ourselves. We are impelled to survive it all because of love.

A special note to fathers on this Father’s Day, but that’s applicable to us all. Be like St. Christopher. Carry your children through the storms of life, or at least help them to swim and don’t let them drown. Carry them with your prayers, knowing that they depend upon them. (If you don’t pray for your children each day, start now…and teach them how to pray, kneel next to them, show them how to talk to God and you’ll give them the best lesson.) Carry them with your mercy and with your money and with all your manhood. Carry them to the shores of salvation. Which means get them to heaven. That is your goal in life. Please don’t fail.

That’s the ultimate message of the readings: we ought not be overcome by the storms of life because Jesus our Savior has saved us from their destructive power, and often when we feel like giving up, all’s we need to do is remember the ones depending on us. In that, we’ll discover how powerful love really is and how powerless the storms actually are.

A final thought. I was reading a few weeks ago about how one man, upon reaching the end of his life, said, “God has turned my every sunset into a sunrise” (St. Clement). That is so like God. He transforms a sunset into a sunrise, a stormy sea into calm, peaceful waters. That’s what we sang in the psalm today. He will turn a tornado into the gentle breeze of the spirit. Whatever our storms may be, in the end, I have a feeling that we’ll end up in heaven glad to God for the very storms we thought were going to kill us, and there, in heaven, we’ll realize that they weren’t as big a deal as we first thought. We might even thank God for them.

Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B
St. Charles Catholic Church – 4pm, 8am, 10am, and 12pm
Holy Family Catholic Church – 6pm
Job 38:1, 8-11 | Psalm 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31 | 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 | Mark 4:35-41