HOMILY


Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday (A) Mt 14:22-33

Many people wander through life searching desperately for something or someone who can show them how to live forever and keep from death. Some even have their bodies flash frozen with the hope that science will discover how to re-vitalize them. On the other hand, some today are even searching for someone who can hasten their death due to depression or suffering. At the heart of this searching is the human soul, made in the image and likeness of God. The human soul desires happiness, not just temporary happiness, but we want joy without end. God has built that into our being so that we can find him easier. Let us look at Matthew’s gospel in light of this searching of our soul.

Matthew tells us that Jesus made the apostles leave him and go across the lake, then he spent the night in prayer after dismissing them. As a side bar, Jesus’ solitary prayer is a model for all of us. Showing us the importance of communication with the Father. Besides our common prayer, there are times when we need to withdraw from the world, even friends and family, and pray alone to the Father.

Jesus while praying to the Father decides it is time to move His apostles to a much deeper understanding of Him and His mission. Jesus feels the time is right to bring His disciples to a profound change of values, which will be necessary for them to plum the depths of reality, the meaning of life and the metaphysical existence of the supernatural. As the apostles journey to the far side of the lake they are suddenly met by fierce winds and waves. This storm is symbolic of all of us fighting the whirlwinds of life trying to live the gospel in the middle of this demonic violence, the persecution of our religion and values around the world.

In the midst of this fierce storm a figure emerges out of the darkness, it is a ghost! They were terrified with fear. Remember that to the apostles only a ghost could be hovering over the water. Their understanding of the spiritual is one dimensional. Jesus immediately tries to calm them and says, “Take heart, it is I, have no fear.” Jesus goes beyond reassurance and claims for himself a divine identity and authority. Once the figure is determined to be the Lord the impetuous Peter calls out to let him come to the Lord.

The account of Peter walking on the water is found only in Matthew. Thus Matthew expands the purpose of this event to say something also about Peter and his faith. While we might emphasize Peter’s fear and his sinking and his “little” faith, we need to look first at his great leap of faith. How many of us would believe we could walk on the water? Peter represents all who dare to believe that Jesus is the Christ, take their first steps in confidence that he is able to sustain them, and then forget to keep their gaze fixed on him when they face storms of temptation. From the depth of crisis, however, they remember to call on the Savior, and experience that his grace is sufficient for their needs. It is this leap of faith, not the “little faith” of Peter, which is the basis, Jesus will consider as the rock to build his Church on. It means that the only faith Jesus expects of his followers is a faith, which concentrates solely on him.

Matthew wrote this story after Peter was crucified and the Church was being persecuted. The two storm stories of the gospel address issues of danger, violence and faith. In both stories, the boat seems to represent the Church, buffeted by temptations, trials and persecution. Are we not going through these same storms today? In both, Jesus appears as the Church's champion, who is strong to save those who call on him in faith. Hence this episode brought great comfort to the early Christians giving them the assurance that Christ would save them even if they were to die for their faith in him. This story reassured Matthew's disciples that, even in the midst of persecution, they need not fear because Jesus was present with them. It offers the same reassurance to us in times of illness, death, upheaval of the way we are to live. It teaches us that adversity is not a sign of God's displeasure or prosperity a sign of God's pleasure. Illness is not a sign of inadequate faith or health a sign of great faith. Paradoxically, the storms of life can be a means of blessing. When things are going badly, our hearts are more receptive to Jesus. A broken heart is often a door through which Christ can find entry. He still comes to us in the midst of our troubles, saying, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

It is the presence of Jesus which gives us peace even in the wildest storms of life: storms of sorrow, storms of doubt, tension and uncertainty, storms of anxiety and worries, storms of anger and despair, storms of temptation. Storms reveal our inability to control all things and the ability of God to do so. When Jesus shows up in our life’s storms, we find that we gain strength. We gain strength to do the seemingly impossible. For example, when Jesus shows up he makes marriages out of mistakes. When Jesus shows up he invigorates, restores, and empowers us to reach the unreachable, to cross the un-crossable. Life’s storms let us know that without him, we can do nothing and without him we are doomed to fail. My brothers and sisters it’s time to get out of the boat, to take that leap of faith keeping our eye and our heart on Jesus our Savior through his sacraments and his word as he sends his Spirit to defend his Church.


q JOSEPH MEILINGER 2020