19th Sunday Homily in Ordinary Time Year A

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Walking on water

INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR

At times storms of one kind or another blow up and threaten not only our peace and our security, but our very life. At such moments we know we cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us and restore calm to our troubled lives.

But we must learn to turn to God, not just in times of difficulty, but at all times. Let us turn to him now. [Pause]

Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear our cries. Lord, have mercy.

If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, who would survive? Christ, have mercy.

But with you is found mercy and fullness of redemption. Lord, have mercy.

HEADINGS FOR READINGS

First Reading (1 Kings 19:9.11-13). The prophet Elijah is fleeing for his life. When all seems lost, he hears the voice of God, not in a mighty wind or earthquake, but in a gentle breeze.

Second Reading (Romans 9: 1-5). St Paul tells us about the sorrow and anguish he suffers because his fellow Jews refused to accept Christ as the Messiah.

Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33). Caught in the middle of high winds and rough seas, at the word of Jesus, Peter begins to walk on the water .

Reading 1 1 KGS 19:9A, 11-13A

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire.  After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Responsorial Psalm PS 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14

R. (8) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD — for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Reading 2 ROM 9:1-5

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Alleluia CF. PS 130:5

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I wait for the Lord;
my soul waits for his word.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 14:22-33

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”

HOMILY

In the Gospel Christ asked Peter to do something which, from a human point of View, made no sense whatsoever. In fact, it was manifestly impossible. He asked him to walk on water. And though Peter obeyed Christ, and set out across the water, his faith soon let him down. He began to sink, so that Jesus had to reach out and save him.

If we take the incident literally, then the miracle has no relevance for us. But if we take it symbolically, or as a faith story, then it has tremendous relevance, and a whole field of possibilities opens up. At some time in our following of him, Christ will ask us to do something which from a human point of View is either laughable, utterly repellant, or impossible to unaided human nature. Let us look at a few examples.

John is a young person in digs somewhere. It is Sunday morning. He is in a warm bed and it is very cold outside. Should he leave that bed and go to Mass? He knows that he will have to face howls of laughter from his mates as they take their ‘liturgy of the word’ straight out of the The Sunday World or The News of the World. Will John be able to Obey the gentle voice of Christ calling him to walk across the water of cynicism to listen to the Word of God?

Mary is a single girl who has become pregnant. She is heading into the middle of a storm of protest from her parents and from finger pointing neighbours as soon as the news breaks. Then she is offered a way out – a quiet abortion before the storm breaks over her. No one will ever know. But then she hears the gentle voice of Christ saying that abortion is wrong ‘Will she have the courage to listen to Christ?

Shelia is a young mother with three children. Suddenly her husband leaves her for another woman. She feels hurt and betrayed, lonely and full of anger. Then she hears the voice of Christ inviting her to trust. Will she have the courage to walk on those troubled waters, relying only on the word of Christ?

Gerry is in a position of authority. But his boss comes to him looking for a favour for a friend of his. To comply with the boss’s wish means trampling on justice. It means letting a blackguard go free, while an innocent man takes the rap. If Gerry say ‘Yes’ to the request, the road to promotion opens out before him. If he says ‘No’, he can forget promotion. But then he hears the voice of Christ saying, ‘Do not participate in injustice’. Will he be able to walk across those foul waters?

Paul is a commercial traveler. He is away from home. He meets a lot of interesting people in the course of his work. One night he meets a very attractive woman. He hasn’t been getting on very well of late With his wife. He feels she is being very unreasonable and difficult to live with. No one will ever know if he is unfaithful to her. Will Paul have the strength to walk across the waters of fidelity at the call of Christ, who tells him that adultery is wrong?

We could multiply the examples, but I think the point has been made. Everyone of us will, at some time or other, be faced with very trying circumstances, very difficult decisions, very great sorrows, very hard temptations. From a human point of view to do what is right, to do the Christian thing, will often make no sense, and will appear to be totally impossible to weak human nature.

We are all called many times to ‘walk on water’. The old things which normally support us no longer do so, or are taken away from us. The solid ground vanishes from beneath our feet. It is then that we have to rely on the word of Christ. To some extent, the whole Christian life is walking in faith, that is, a relying only on the word of Christ.

In the difficult moments we have to listen to the voice of Christ as he tells us to leave the boat and start walking towards him. But what if we begin to sink? It’s then that, like Peter, we have to cry out to him for help. He is not a ghostlike figure from the past. He is the Son of God who lives among us.

If during our lives we never really make that kind of decision even once, what will happen when death comes, and Christ asks us to come to him across its dark waters? Christ was the first to walk on the waters of death without being swallowed up. One day we will have to leave the earthly ‘boat’ that has carried us through the sometimes stormy waters of this world, and set out across the waters of death. If at difficult moments during life we have opted for Christ, then at death it will come naturally to us to reach out and take his hand so that he may haul us onto the shores of eternity, where there will be no more storms, and where a lasting peace will descend on our troubled lives and restless hearts.

‘In normal times we do not realise how little faith we have. When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strengths and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light then we find out whether or not we live by faith’. (Thomas Merton).

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

Christ promised that he would be with us in his Church all days until the end of time. He is with us now. Let us place our prayers before him with confidence. R. Reach out your hand and save us.

For all Christians: that when they are faced with difficulties they may reach out for the help of Christ. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

For those in positions of power: that when they are in danger of sinking into the murky waters of dishonesty and corruption, Christ may inspire and uphold them. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

For those who have no faith, and who consequently are at the mercy of the cold winds of anguish and despair. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

That realising how little Our faith is, we may rely totally on Christ who is never more than an arm’s length away from us. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

For local needs.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, strengthen our little faith, so that in the midst of our difficulties we may keep our eyes fixed on Jesus your Son, and so come to the safety of your Kingdom. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.

SIGN OF PEACE

Lord, when the disciples were struggling against wind and sea, you came to them and said: ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid’. Come to us in our moments of adversity, calm our fears, so that we may enjoy the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.

COMMUNION REFLECTION

There was once a sea captain

who in his retirement skippered a boat

taking day trippers to the Shetland Islands.

On one trip the boat was full of young people.

These laughed at the old captain

when they saw him saying a prayer before setting out,

for the day was fine and the sea calm.

But when out at sea a storm suddenly blew up,

and the boat began to pitch violently,

the terrified passengers came to the captain

and asked him to join them in prayer.

But he replied:

‘I say my prayers when it’s calm.

When it’s rough, I attend to my ship’.

There is a lesson here for us.

If we cannot or will not seek God

in the quiet moments of our lives,

we are not likely to find him when trouble strikes.

We are more likely to panic.

But if we have learnt to seek him

and to trust him in the quiet moments,

then most certainly we will find him

when the going gets rough.

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