Dear People of God,
We celebrate Nineteenth Sunday of the Ordinary Time. The readings are from 1 Kings 19:9.11-13; the second reading is from Romans 9:1-5 and the Gospel from Matthew 14:22-33.
You are all familiar with this story. An old lady used to stand beside her home says so loudly, praise the Lord for every little thing she received. An unbeliever used counter shouting saying, there is no lord. One day she had no food in her home. She came out shouted for help. The unbeliever came and gave her something to eat and said that it was not the Lord but him who fed her. The old lady retaliated him saying: “Praise the Lord! He has provided me with groceries and made the devil pay for them.”
No need to fear when the Lord is near. “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” By confessing Jesus, the Lord, we give appropriate response to all that threaten us.
Finding God in little ones and moments is the daily task of our life. Allow God to find ourselves is the courage. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me;” (Ps.23:4)
Are you in a crisis? Or in a storm of life and relationship? The first reading answers that God comes in a gentle and an unassuming way to bless and protect us. God consoles and strengthens Elijah when he was running away after killing the prophets of Baal.
The burden of human suffering and sadness in the life of St. Paul is lessened by the powerful presence of Christ in his life. Jesus walking on the stormy water in the Gospel offers courage to face the storm. St. Mathew strengthens the Church at the time of persecution not to be afraid of sufferings, trials, and tribulations. As the Church faces all its fear with the feathers of hope in Christ, so we are invited to face fear with our faith in Jesus. In everyone, there is a storm and fear to be faced by us. The Gospel passage strengthens our faith in Jesus in dealing with our fear and anxiety.
There are innumerable storms in our lives, the Church and community. All three reading assures us that the Lord will never abandon us and leave us to face it all by ourselves.
If we take our eyes off the Saviour like Peter, we might give up. To stand before the Lord is the ideal response to fight and flight situation. Elijah went to mountain out of fear, but Jesus went to be near the Father in prayer. Whenever we present ourselves before the Lord tired of life situations, relationships, God asks the same question which God asked Elijah: “Why are you here?” so as to remind ourselves to take responsibility for all that the Lord has entrusted to us whether it is family, friends, relatives and community.
Even with our unbelief, we cannot frustrate God’s plans. God enters our lives through the person of Jesus.
Theme of the readings is by hearing and trusting the voice of God, we enjoy calm after the storm. ‘One who trusts will not panic.’ (Is.28:16)
We do not need to struggle alone when the wind is contrary at the time of sorrows, suffering, temptations, with the outstretched arms Jesus comes to alleviate our pain, fear, and anxiety.
The character of Peter is brought out in the story of the Gospel. Disbelief, fear, and pride in Peter is the mindset of the disciples and the followers of Jesus at the time. Mere presence of Jesus can calm any storm whether it is natural or created by fear and anxiety. With prayer we can recognise those in suffering and face the storm head-on. We are re-energised only by the power of prayer. When prayer moments dwindle, our spirit is weakened by the wind of doubt and fear. Courage comes by prayer. The spiritual stamina of the soul gushes in our life through the faith in Jesus. “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Hard and challenging times like that of this pandemic, we need not panic. “Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Ps. 121:1,2).
When we are faced with fear and death, we can mistake the presence of God and give up as the disciples mistook presence of Jesus as ghost. What we truly need today is the virtue of courage. The Catechism teaches us in 1808: Courage or fortitude ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions. “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn.16:33).
Our boat whether it is the Church, or our family tossed and twisted by the turbulent storms of life, Jesus whispers in our core beings not to be afraid because He is around. Despite all dangers, setbacks, huddles, and fear, we need to go out to meet Jesus to enjoy peace and serenity in our lives.
His holiness Pope Francis teaches us, “Faith does not open a passage of calm and cosy life but Faith gives us the assurance of a Presence, the presence of Jesus who encourages us to overcome the existential tempests, the certainty of a hand that grabs hold of us so as to help us face the difficulties, pointing the way for us even when it is dark. Faith, in short, is not an escape route from life’s problems, but it sustains the journey and gives it meaning.” “Lord, save me.” Is echoed everywhere in the world especially in the streets, homes, and hearts of people of Beirut, Lebanon.
Even though the Gospel reflects the early problems faced by the Church, it connects with our present conditions of life we are in. The leakage in the boat are visible from groupism, emerging spiritualities and theologies, and issues of unity and conflicting messages as the Church faces the persecutions, division and hostility outside the boat damages the relationship with God.
What Jesus promises everyone is Peace. “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.” (Jn.14:27). Just like Elijah, we find God in peace. To live a grace-filled life, we need to embrace fear-free relationships.
Our approach to the attractions, ambitions and aroma of the world does not end up in condoning the evil within us rather to recognise the presence of Jesus in professing, ““Truly, you are the Son of God”.
May the Lord bless you this entire week not to be afraid of anything. Have a fear-free and safe week. God bless you.