Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: 1 Kg 19:9,11-13; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33
The storms of life and the Lord who calms our fears are the phrases that sum up the central message of this Sunday. The readings this Sunday proclaim the good news of the Lord who saves us in the storms of our life’s journey. In the first reading from the First Book of Kings, Elijah threatened to death 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. In the gospel, it was in the early hours of the morning. The lake was rough as the disciples battled with the storm. Meanwhile, Jesus approached 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 reveals a sharp contrast between God’s control over natural elements and human powerlessness; God’s trustworthiness and human doubt; God’s courage and human fear. 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 the hand of a drowning Peter. Finally Jesus restores the rough sea back to normal. Once he gets into the boat, the winds drop and all is calm again. When you and I are immersed in the seas of our own fears, we need a moment of quiet; we need to be in prayer to regain our sense of direction, our focus and strength. When caught in the storms of political turmoil and in danger of death, the prophet Elijah flees to the mountain. There he regained 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. In that calmness of prayer they responded to God’s call to discipleship and stewardship of self-giving. 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. In that calmness we too will hear the Lord’s comforting words: “take courage it is I! Do not be afraid.” We will then respond to his call to discipleship and stewardship of time, talent and treasure. What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The good news is that in the storms of our daily life the Lord is there to grab our hand and save us as he did for Peter in the storm. 2) As disciples and stewards, we need to faith in Christ and focus on him; Peter sunk because he looked away from Jesus! 3) When immersed in the storms of our own life, we need contemplation; we need to be in prayer in order to regain our sense of direction, our focus on Jesus who calls us to go forward even in the midst of danger or crisis.
©2014 John S. Mbinda