Crossing to the other side…

Homily for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

by Deacon Scott D. Gilfillan

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.”

The gospel opens up: “On that day, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross to the other side.” Three questions come to mind: What was so special about that day? Why did Jesus want to cross to the other side? After finding out the answer to these two questions, the third question that comes is this: Are you willing to take that trip to the other side with Jesus?

Crossing brings about the Kingdom

First, the day. Jesus spent the whole day on the seashore teaching speaking the wonderful language of parables, introducing each with the phrase, “The kingdom of God is like…” He talked about the sower who scattered seed indiscriminately on various types of soil. He suggested letting your lamp shine. He described the mysterious growth of a field of wheat at night. He said the smallest of all mustard seeds becomes the greatest habitat for the birds of the sky. The crowd on the shore must have been delighted to hear these stories but challenged as to what they might mean. Sitting on the shore of the lake listening to Jesus must have been a special day indeed.

After a full day of exploring the mysteries of the kingdom, he offered an invitation to the crowd. “Let us cross to the other side.” Why is crossing to the other side so important? The timing of this remark almost seems like Jesus needed to reinforce his teaching. After all those parables about the kingdom, it is as if he is saying ‘let me show you what I mean’, “Let us cross to the other side.” ‘We can talk about the kingdom of God all we want, but only by crossing to the other side will we live the kingdom of God.”

What is on the other side? The other side, the east bank of the Sea of Galilee, was Gentile territory. Talking as a rabbi in Jewish land to a largely Jewish audience, Jesus invites the crowd to cross into the land of the Gentiles.

Why did Jesus want to cross to the other side? He wanted to be the sower in Jesus’ parable, scattering the seed indiscriminately – even to the ones with whom the disciples would rather not associate. He wanted to show them what it means to hide our lamp under a bushel basket or let it shine even on the Gentiles. He wanted to show that the branches of this mustard tree are so impressively large that ALL the birds of the land can dwell in it. On that day, he taught them parables. On that day, he also invited them to put this newfound teaching into practice.

Jesus Invites us to Cross to the Other Side

What does it mean to ‘cross to the other side’ in your world and mine? In short, it is anytime Jesus invites you to leave the familiar and go into a strange and unfamiliar land, and in the process help God usher in the kingdom.

The crossing could be spiritual, where Jesus invites you to a deeper relationship through prayer and contemplation. The crossing could be moral, where Jesus invites you to shed a habit. It could be a call to a conversion of heart, to reconcile differences with people who are ‘on the other side. It may be an invitation to evangelize the ‘gentiles’ in your world.

The invitation may come in the form of discerning a difficult decision – how to care for aging parents, how to discipline a teenager, how to get out of a dead-end job.

Regardless, anytime we respond to the invitation of Jesus we help God usher in the kingdom.

How did the disciples respond to the invitation?

When Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us cross to the other side,” what was their response? Some stayed behind, others got in their boat.

Those that stayed behind were content to listen to the teaching of Jesus – perhaps they may learn something useful or hear something that makes them feel good. Few accepted the invitation to ‘cross over to the other side.’ No personal growth, no kingdom. It is in the crossing in which we become vulnerable but the act of trusting God activates our faith, opens us up for the grace we need, and allows us to marvel at the mighty power of God.

Some got in the boat with Jesus. While crossing, the storms came. It’s a lesson that crossing is not always easy. When the disciples were worried about being capsized, what was Jesus doing? Sleeping. When the severe storms of life suddenly that threaten to overwhelm us, how often has it felt that Jesus had ‘checked-out’, “asleep on a cushion”. We cry, “Master, do you not care?”

As perplexing as that is, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus was in YOUR boat. When the storms of life come, what boat do you want to be in? He can take care of the winds and the waves, even if he appears to be sleeping.

Some got in their own boats, not the boat that Jesus was in. They knew they needed to cross somewhere, but would rather do it on their terms, their way. Trying to cross without Jesus is going to be a difficult journey. The storms are going to come and few have the skills to cope, especially when they find themselves in difficult situations like being at the bedside of a loved one who is seriously ill, losing a job, or forgiving one who caused us harm. Rather than take the demanding course that you know that Jesus wants you to take, but you’d rather stay in your own boat, do it your own way.

Accept the invitation to cross, but make sure you get in the right boat

In summary, Jesus is inviting you to ‘cross over’ – to leave your comfort zone to spread seeds, shine your light, open your branches to the stranger. Accept the invitation. Help realize the daily prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” But make sure you get into the right boat!