Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preached on June 20-21, 2015 at Saint Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY, Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY, and Pax Christi Catholic Church, Lexington KY
Readings: Job 38:1, 8-11; Psalm 107:23-24, 25-26, 28-29, 30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41

There are times in our lives when we find ourselves in the company of the disciples in that storm-ravaged boat on the Sea of Galilee. Those are the times when we cannot help but cry out with them, “Lord, do You not care?’ (Mk. 4:38)

“Lord, do you not care?” (Mk. 4:38)

Do you not care that there are gunmen who slaughter children in our schools and congregants in our churches? Do you not care that our teenagers are getting killed by drunk drivers? Do you not care that someone who has always lived a healthy lifestyle is suddenly stricken with cancer? Do you not care that, in spite of all the best efforts of keeping it together, so many marriages fall apart? Do you not care that, after a lifetime of working hard, we have to make do with a whole lot less because most of our hard-earned retirement has been stolen by thieves in suits?

Do you not care that cheaters win? Do you not care that liars are believed? Do you not care that cowards are honored? Do you not care that criminals get away with murder? Do you not care that the crooks run the world?

“Lord, do you not care?” (Mk. 4:38)

Jesus calms the storm

This same complaint resounded in the early Church that first heard this passage from the Gospel according to Mark. They were the people who got expelled from the synagogue, who had lost their livelihood, their property, and their rights because they dared to profess their faith in Christ. They were the people who were being betrayed by their own family members, who were being rounded up to be exiled and executed. They were the people who had given up everything for the Lord, and they had been left with nothing. They too were wondering why it seemed that the Lord was sleeping on the job (cf. Mk. 4:38). They too were crying out, “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk. 4:38)

During the Second World War, at Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac, my grandmother Elpidia and her sister Bernardina found themselves sitting right next to the makeshift bed of their brother, USAFFE Sergeant Feliciano Soriano. Sianu had contracted dysentery from the Death March and he had been lying on his own filth for days in that prisoner of war camp. His sisters had come to bring him food, only to find out that they had come to watch him die. They tried to clean him up and restore some sort of dignity to a man who in life tried always to appear dignified and distinguished. They had been told that they could neither bring him home to their father nor be present at his burial in the camp’s mass grave. Delirious and defeated, Sianu wondered out loud where God was in that hell on earth. “Lord,” he cried out, “do you not care?” In tears, my grandmother reassured him with a prayer that she had learned from the Book of Job (1:21): “The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Those words gave solace to that soldier and together he and his sisters repeated that prayer until that soldier breathed no more.

“The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Fifty years later, my family stood in front of the old house that had been our home for five generations. The once dormant volcano, Mount Pinatubo, had erupted, and we were told that our city was in the danger zone. We had heard that all the city’s bridges had collapsed and we struggled to figure out how we could evacuate every member of our extended family. We realized that we had no choice but to wade through the Abacan River and walk for miles before we could reach safety. I was fourteen at that time and my youngest sibling Ivan was but two months old. My Aunt Aurora and my cousins-in-law Rizalia and Nenita were all seven months pregnant. I was starting to wonder whether God had dozed off and had left us to fend for ourselves. But, before anyone of us could even grumble to the Lord “Do you not care?” my grandmother recited that prayer of Job from her brother’s deathbed: “The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Then she stepped forward to lead our exodus from the only home that our family had known for a century.

“The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

At one time, Job, the author of that prayer, had everything that he ever wanted in the world. In just one day, all of it was taken away from him. Yet, he never once cried out, “Lord, do you not care?” His wife and his friends tried to convince him to curse God for all the misfortunes that he had had to endure. He never did. He simply stated, “The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Job’s prayer sustained him in the midst of unspeakable hardship. That same prayer sustained my grandmother and her dying brother through the inhumanities of war. It sustained my own family in the face of an unimaginable catastrophe. It has sustained so many others who ever had a reason to raise a grievance to the Lord. It also can sustain us every time that we are tempted to cry out, “Lord, do you not care?” It can be the mantra that will tide us over all our troubles this coming week. It can be our prayer in bad times and in good, so that whatever will come our way, we will always bless the name of the Lord.

“The Lord has given. The Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Finally, when we have crossed the swelling tide and have reached the other side (cf. My Savior First of All by Frances J. Cosby), if we had been faithful through all of life’s tests and temptations, we would be assured that the Lord will welcome us with His sweet words: “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come share your master’s joy” (Mt. 25:23). Then will this prayer of Job take on a whole other meaning, as joyfully we would exclaim: “The Lord has taken away our earthy life. The Lord has given us eternal life. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (cf. Job 1:21).

~ by Fr. Noel F. Zamora on Sunday, June 21, 2015.

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