On this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, I would like to share some thoughts with you about the basic movements we find in today’s first reading (1 Kings 19:9, 11-13) and Gospel (Mt 14:22-23) reading. What I’m looking at is God’s movements toward us and our responses to Him.
The divine presence is something that comes to meet us as just as God came to meet Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise. That is likewise what happened to the disciples in their storm-tossed boat. Christ came to meet them, summoning them to have faith, to trust, and believe in Him. To see Him with the eyes of faith we must leave behind our ordinary ways of seeing reality. As always seems to be the case with God, we must do this in order to see things in God’s dimension, in a fourth dimension so to speak. We must expect and accept the unexpected and then perceive with eyes and ears unaccustomed to a new light, God’s light that Jesus Christ illumines for us.
To help you approach that of which I speak, consider what happened to you when you first fell in love. Do you remember your first real love, not your puppy love but your first real love? From that encounter forward didn’t you see the world in a wonderfully new way? Didn’t your feelings about other people change into softer, gentler ways of seeing them and relating to them? Seeing the world through the eyes of love makes a difference, a huge difference.
How does God speak to us, in big events or in life’s storms? Do we call on Him only when we’re hit by the storms and rough seas of life? We need to be open to God at all times. We all know what it’s like to make a phone call only to be put on hold. Do we put God on hold when He’s trying to reach us? How long of a hold? How patient are we when we’re put on hold? How patient is God with us when we put Him on hold?
When Peter was filled with fright he took his attention away from Christ. The consequence was that fear controlled him and so he began to sink. When he reconnected with Jesus he was able to get back on board again.
The important point we should not forget is that our Savior remained open to Peter’s prayer and cry for help. Sometime when distress and calamity beset us we think that God is absent. But the truth is that God never abandons us to our fate; He remains steadfastly available to us. He is always present to us. Peter is a good model for us.
Being overcome with fear we sometimes sink into despair and in doing so abandon our faith in God, often times telling ourselves that God doesn’t care or that He’s not there for us. But the opposite is true, it is we who abandon God’s caring love for us; God never abandons us.
We have to have enough faith to continue being open to God and to recognize him in His quiet whisperings to us in our hearts just as Elijah did at the entrance to his cave where he had taken refuge from life’s earthquakes and storms.
We all have our life-shaking events – our own personal earthquakes. We all have our own storms to ride out, our own terrible tornados and hurricanes that threaten to blow us away.
Faith isn’t just for quiet times; faith is for moments of stampeding desperation; faith is for all of life’s events.
We should not neglect paying attention to the boat we heard about in today’s Gospel account. The boat is a symbol; it’s a symbol of the Church. Jesus and His disciples were all back in that boat together. When that happened they were no longer fearful and the storms and heavy seas of life no longer had their control over them. The same should be true for us. We should see the Church and the presence of Christ in His sacraments as our refuge and our strength. We should get on board with Peter and the apostles.
Coming to Church and receiving Christ isn’t something that’s simply nice; it’s essential for our salvation and for our peace of mind. It is essential for our own reaching out for Christ’s helping hand. How do we deal with what life throws at us? Do all of these fears and worries turn our eyes away from the presence of God so that we focus only on our fears? Our Blessed Lord always presents Himself to us; what attention do we give Him? All of us are a lot like Peter. We need, with Peter, call out to our Lord and allow Him to be with us in our fears and distress. We need also to give thanks to God in our moments of happiness, victory, and success.
Yes, there are many things that assault our hearts and souls. I would fail you however if I did not point out the fact that much of what causes us distress comes from forces outside of ourselves. However formidable they may be, there is another distress about which we should be mindful, namely the struggle we all have to maintain our faith in God. This is why we must develop and maintain a strong spirituality, a life of prayer, and times we spend becoming aware of God’s presence within us and His love for us. Storm tossed as our lives may be, there is a deep sense of calmness and peace that can be God’s gift to us if we turn our eyes, as Peter did, to the Lord who comes to us walking over the stormy waters of chaos. Should we neglect to do that we will be robbed of inner peace and sink into spiritual and emotional depths and be overcome. Jesus continually told His followers, and He tells us also: “Fear not. I am with you. Have courage and be not afraid.”
With all of this in mind, here is a morning prayer you may find helpful to pray at the beginning of each of your days:
Lord of Light, creator the sun and our world, I thank you for the gifts you will give me today. I want to use them to accomplish your purposes and to reveal your Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. I place myself into your hands¸ my Divine Friend and my Companion¸ who watches over me as I move throughout this day. Join the problems and pains I face into the sufferings of your Christ as in Him I surrender myself into your will. Bless this day those whom I love and let me find you in those whom I serve in your special ways. Lord of light and life, I join myself into your Son to bring your love into the world you have given me. Amen.