Friday, August 5, 2011

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: 1 Kg 19:9,11-13; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33

Caught in the storms of life; afraid of drowning in our troubles; depressed, and suddenly the Lord is there to calm our fears: “Do not be afraid.” The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on the Lord who saves us in the storms of our life. In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, Elijah threatened by Queen Jezebel flees to the mountain and hides in a cave, afraid for his life. He is so depressed and dejected that he wants to die! The Lord however calls him to come out so that the Lord may reveal himself to Elijah. Then God reveals himself in the gentle mountain breeze, perceptible only to the attentive listener. Only after being calmed by the presence of the Lord does Elijah come out of the cave without fear, but hides his face because the Lord is present. Psalm 84 already introduces us to this theme. “Lord let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” Thus the prayer of the psalmist places us into the presence of the Lord, who saves us in our difficult moments, as we hear from the Gospel passage. It was early in the morning and the lake was rough as the disciples battled with the storm. Meanwhile, Jesus was approaching them and appeared through the mist walking on the lake towards them. The disciples could not recognize him and thought it was a ghost. They were frightened. Jesus took the initiative to reassure them: "Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid!" Peter, still in doubt replied: "If it is you, tell me to come to you across the waters". Jesus then invites Peter who begins walking towards him on the water, but when he feels the force of the storm, he is afraid and begins to sink. Jesus had to rescue a drowning Peter.

The Gospel passage reminds us of the importance of remaining focused on the Lord, just as Jesus remained close to the Father in his moments of prayer. Matthew uses the image of the apostles sailing against the storms, in order to draw our attention to the fact that we too tend to behave like them in the storms of our own life. The apostles were frightened and never thought of the Lord as being close to them. In the critical moments of our life, we tend to think of our own safety, forgetting the Lord who is always close to us. The example of Peter illustrates this point. Instead of focusing on Jesus who calls him to walk on the rough waters, Peter thinks first of his own safety, and even doubts that Jesus will indeed save him. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” There are three powerful moments in this passage. First Jesus reassures the apostles. “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid”. Then we find Jesus grabbing Peter’s hand just on time before sinking. Finally Jesus restores the entire atmosphere back to normal. As he gets into the boat, the winds drop and all is calm again. When immersed in the seas of our own fears, we need contemplation, we need to be in prayer to regain our sense of direction, our focus and strength. When in trouble and dejected, the prophet Elijah flees to the mountain, as it were in retreat, to regain his relationship with God. It was on the mountain retreats of Subiaco and Assisi that St. Benedict and St. Francis found their bearings and calmness in God. Like them, faith in Christ will enable us to keep that vital inner strength and focus so we can calmly walk with Jesus through the turmoil and confusion of this world. What message do we take home? 1) Without faith in Christ and the calmness we find in God’s presence in prayer, like Peter in the Gospel we could easily sink and drown in the storms of daily life; 2) We focus our minds in Christ through our prayer to the Lord who saves us and rescues us in the storms of our daily life. 3) Like Elijah, may we find our gentle God in the quiet moments of life; in the soft breezes of life, so that Christ may calm our fears and remove everything that threatens our peace of mind.

©2011 John S. Mbinda
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