Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year A
A Gentle God
The world of faith contains endless possibilities. For thousands of years, humanity has grappled with faith’s complexity. Even today, countless millions continue to fill our churches, synagogues, temples, shrines, and assembly halls, desiring to be transformed by the world of transcendence. People sometimes go to extraordinary means to find God or meaning for their lives. The answer is not always what we think –– sometimes it is staring us in the face. In order to find God and the purpose for our lives, we must listen to the teachings of scripture and the wisdom of the Church, and then look deep within ourselves.
In our first reading from the Book of Kings, Elijah was told by the Lord to go outside the cave because the Lord would be passing by. Elijah was probably expecting the Lord’s presence to be part of a mighty encounter. On the contrary, Elijah experienced the Lord in an unexpected way –– in the whispering of the wind. God came to Elijah in a gentle way. Likewise, Jesus comes to the disciples in the midst of a stormy sea offering them gentle reassurance. In the gospel, Jesus comes to his followers in an unexpected way. He defies science and its laws of gravity and physics by walking on the water. Not only were these people frightened because of the storm, they were also frightened by the sight of Jesus walking on the water. Jesus tells them not to be afraid. Caught up in this transcendental moment, we find Peter wanting to be one with Jesus in the whole experience, but he does not have the faith or the power within him to walk on the water. Why? Peter is distracted by the strong wind and the dangerous waters around him and lacks faith. Jesus recognizes Peter’s weakness and stretches out his hand to save Peter, bringing him to safety.
God makes himself known to each of us in unexpected ways. He is very much a God of surprises. We do not necessarily have to go to places of pilgrimage, holy shrines, churches, mountain tops or beaches to find him present (even though God is always in those places). God is present in the vulnerability of love that exists between spouses and is found in the struggles of family life. Wherever people actively engage in works of charity and mercy, God is also there. God can be found in the midst of the poor, the sick, imprisoned, and the lonely. The Lord is always present to us in the “storms” of our lives always with an outstretched arm, ready to save us. Even though we may lack faith when we are faced with hardships, God is always ready to redeem and save us. Jesus’ words to the disciples are words that should resonate with us when we struggle: “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” In short, the Lord is a God of all seasons who can be found in every time and place. It is up to each one of us to discern His presence and follow His will.
It takes courage to follow the Lord. Sometimes we have to listen to the deepest yearnings of our hearts, as did Elijah, and hear the Lord calling us out of the darkness of our caves to the light that awaits his presence. The patriarchs, prophets, apostles, disciples, saints and martyrs had the ability to listen to God in the midst of the storms of their lives. They faced difficult and dangerous situations as like we all do. What was their answer to such trials – they relied on God in a very humble and trusting way. Let us pray for such reliance upon the God who loves us beyond all imagining.
Lord, you are present to us in the whispers of the wind, calling us forth to follow your will. When the storm clouds of life cast their shadow upon us, we humbly ask that you protect us with an outstretched arm. O Lord, be in all things, through all things and above all things. May you transform our world with your tender love and mercy. Amen.
What surprises you about the encounters with God in the readings today?
What is significant about Jesus walking on the water?
How does Jesus quell the fears of the disciples?
How do you relate to Elijah’s experience of God?
Name the ways in which you have encountered God in the “storms” or turmoil of your personal experience.
How does Jesus offer you courage?
How are you part of God’s story?
Voices of Faith
Humility opens not the doors to success in this world
But opens humanity to love the essence of God
Humility calls forth gentleness, patience, mercy and loveliness
In which hearts are changed and people are strengthened
Salvation history bears witness to this precious gift
In which many are called but few are chosen to lead others into the heart of God
Abram and Sarai heed the call of God
With humility they leave Haran, their land
Famine, Pharaoh and kings bring these humble people to their knees
Abram listens to the Lord amidst such strife
Then a dream fulfilled and realized – Isaac a son born out of love
Willing to sacrifice Isaac his greatest gift, Abraham and Sarah’s descendents will numerous be
Moses comes to take his rest leading a flock beyond the wilderness
He rests in Horeb, the mountain of God from where God speaks in burning bush
Moses is summoned to remove his sandals upon sacred ground
With humility he listens to the sacred plan
Returning to Egypt to Israel’s plight he takes up God’s fight
Israel’s children is led to their promised land with God’s Law in hand
Patriarchs and Prophets must be people of God and humility
Elijah challenges his king and foes and fearing for his life he enters the cave
He’s humbled not by mighty acts but a soft whispering sound in which God is grasped
The Prophets great and small – open to God they give their all
The widow and orphan’s plight are entrusted to humbled hands
To reveal God’s intention and saving plan
The highlight of salvation’s journey is to receive God’s all
An angel to a virgin in Nazareth came to tell that she was chosen to fulfill God’s plan
“Let it be done to me according to your word,” the humble virgin did say
Without hesitation or fear she does not get in God’s way
A simple carpenter listens to his dream where God delivers him from his fears
In Bethlehem, the city of David, salvation’s dawn does appear
With Jesus Christ the world will change as he walks down gospel ways
To fishermen, tax collectors and sinners he issues his call to follow him and give their all
The blind, the leper, the broken, the shamed – are touched by Jesus to reveal they’re saved
He binds up wounds, the crippled run free – those cursed by death new life they see
Humanity is humbled by God’s Word made flesh
For in walking the dusty roads of Galilee, God’s will is made manifest
Through times and seasons many are humbled to answer God’s call
Leaving family and friends behind the disciple is tempted not by fame or fortune
Some martyrs will be for Him who died on Calvary
Others to squalor and poor lands will flee to tell the Good News which will set men free
Humility will give the disciple patience and strength to fight every struggle and strife
For God and his people he will give his life – to reach the gates of heaven where there is no night
— “Peaceful Moments”by Fr. John J. Ludden
image: “Walking on Water”/ Ivan Aivazovsky/wikimedia.org