Our first reading today comes form the book of Job which is one of the most fascinating stories of the Old Testament. It tackles the most primitive question of the human heart, "Why do the innocent suffer?"
As the story begins, Job is a very wealthy tribal leader with many children and a great number of animals. He is also a very just and holy man who observes God's law without fault. God wants to see just how good Job is and so he decides to put him to the test by allowing everything to be taken away from him. While Job is at his brother's house, a servant arrives to tell him that his oxen, camels and donkeys have been taken away by a rival tribe. Before he could finish speaking, another servant arrives announcing that a fire fell from the sky which burned up all his sheep. As if that were not bad enough, Job learns that his children were all killed when the house they were in collapsed on top of them.
Job is devastated by the news. In his grief he tears his clothes, shaves his head and falls to the ground. Despite his suffering, Job does not blame or curse God.
In the meantime, to make matters worse, Job becomes sick. His body is covered with unsightly and painful sores. Still, he does not blame God or ask him why such suffering has been visited upon him.
Then, Job is visited by some friends who come to comfort him in his sorrow. They tell him that he must have committed some sin for God to be punishing him so miserably. Job insists that he is innocent, that he has done nothing to offend God and that he does not deserve to be punished. His friends, however, keep encouraging him to ask God for forgiveness.
Finally, Job can stand it no longer. He turns to God and asks him what he has done to deserve so much misery.
Our first reading is taken from God's response to Job's question. God appears to Job out of a thunderous storm and assures him that he himself created the heavens, the earth and all that is in them. Nothing happens without his willing it. Everything takes place according to God's plan. No woman or man is wise enough to fully comprehend all that God does.
At God's words, Job falls silent affirming that he is not wise enough to understand all that God does and that he has no other choice but to accept his will.
No matter what we have experienced in our lives, we can all relate to the story of Job. In times of suffering, all of us have at one time wondered whether or not we were being punished by God. And how many of us have ever told God that we deserve a better deal in life because we are so good and because we go to church every week? Or how many of us, upon hearing that someone we know has suffered a tragedy, has ever said to ourselves that they deserve their bad fortune or wondered what they must have done to be punished so terribly? We say such things because we want to believe that if we are good we will somehow be magically protected from misery and hardship. In reality, many times we have little control over what our fate will be.
This would be depressing news if we were people without faith. Instead we have the assurance that the one who is in control - the Almighty God - knows us and loves us. Even though events in our lives can seem to be spinning out of control, God has us and our lives in his hands. No matter what tragedy may befall us, God will make good come from it if we only trust him. Though we cannot fully understand it, God has a plan. He has the whole world in his hands. And he holds each one of us in his hands.
The gospel reading from Mark picks up on this theme. The disciples find themselves in the middle of a storm in the Sea of Galilee. The waves are crashing into the boat, and it is filling up with water. All the while, Jesus is fast asleep. Fearing that they will drown, the disciples wake Jesus up and tell him what's happening. Jesus seems surprised that they are in such a state of panic. He rebukes the wind and the waves and they fall silent at his command. The storm clouds clear away, and the sea becomes calm. Jesus reassures the disciples - Jesus reassures us - that no matter what we may be experiencing, he has power over it. He might not always use that control the way we would like him to, but he knows what he is doing. And what he is doing is ultimately for our good.
The childrens song, "He Has the Whole World in His Hands", says it all. Whatever tragedies, fears or sorrows we are dealing with today, God has control of it. Our faith assures us that, though he seems silent and asleep, he will calm the storm. Though we can often feel that our lives will never return to normal - that we will never experience serenity again - God has a plan to get us through our present circumstances and bring us to an even better place. At this Mass, let us place our concerns on the altar and let God know that we do trust him. Then our minds will be at ease, and we can watch the miracles take place.