Homily for Wednesday after Epiphany, 5 Jan 2022, Mk 6:45-52
Today’s Gospel tells us when Jesus got into the boat with them, the wind died down. I have a feeling that St. Mark also meant it figuratively. I think it was their fear that died down before the wind actually did.
You see, fear can attack us like a dreadful hurricane, especially when we face an enemy that is totally unfamiliar to us. We can be so overcome by anxiety we begin to react irrationally to the situation to the point that we go on a kind of self-destruct mode. That is what panic does to people who find themselves in a disaster situation. It is the more common reason why people perish in calamity situations. They tend to lose a sense of equanimity and begin to behave like headless chickens darting about without direction.
This is one of the most important lessons that we are learning from the medical sciences, with regard to the Covid19 virus. Because it is a total stranger to the human physiology, the body can react to it in a very exaggerated way. Doctors call such a reaction a “cytokine storm”, by the way. Take note how it is also described as a storm—not a literal but a figurative supertyphoon. It is a storm that happens inside the human body, where it is our own immune system that goes on what they call an OVERDRIVE, because it has been attacked by an unfamiliar virus.
This makes you understand the scientific reason for vaccination—why the proposed solution to reducing fatalities is to introduce into the body some dead particles from the Covid19 virus itself. It is precisely for the purpose of giving the body the chance to familiarize itself with the components of this virus so as to prevent it from reacting in an exaggerated way.
You see, there is so much that we still do not fully understand about the complex organic system that we humans are functioning with. This tendency towards an “immune overdrive” has its own equivalent in the way we operate collectively as families, as communities, as societies, or even as nations.
St. Mark ends his narrative with the remark, “They were completely astounded. They had not understood… their hearts were hardened.” It is a very accurate description of the worse kind of disaster that can happen to people when they are in a state of panic.
The curious thing is, just telling people in such a situation NOT TO PANIC or JUST CALM DOWN does not always work. Sometimes even a good swimmer can drown at sea and even drag down the very person who tries to save him.
The first reading has a good formula for counteracting fear: LOVE. Love has the power to restore our sense of equanimity. It can give us the assurance that we are not alone, that we are in good hands. Yesterday we heard the apostle John equating LOVE with GOD. And today he says in the continuation of that epistle, PERFECT LOVE CASTS OUT FEAR. It’s like the captain has announced a good news: GOD IS ON BOARD. We may not be in control of the ship, but HE IS.