Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 9, 2020
Matthew 14: 22-33
By Rev. John Tran
There are three people highlighted in today’s readings: Elijah, Paul, and Peter. They all have striking similarities. All of them had a sense of being overwhelmed; all felt helpless at being able to solve their situations. All experienced the grace and power of God, and in that moment, they knew the peace of God’s presence in and around them.
It helps us to know why Elijah was standing on that mountain. In fact he, was a prophet. He had warned the king and the people that the Queen was wrong in wanting to put a statue of a pagan god in the Temple itself. She did it anyway. His talk already made the Queen mad at him. He had warned her that if the statues were put in the Temple that there would be a drought which did come about and caused much suffering. Then Elijah defeated the pagan prophets the Queen had sent against him; Now, She wanted Elijah dead. So, in deep depression and at the end of his rope, Elijah fled to a cave and asked God to take his life; but God had a better solution. He told Elijah to go up the mountain and he would find God. Of course, Elijah did not find God where he thought he would, but in the gentle breeze. Yet that breeze in which God made his presence felt calmed Elijah and filled him with God’s peace, so that he could face his serious difficulties. Notice that God did not solve all his difficulties, but gave him peace and courage; Elijah could go on.
Paul was writing to the churches of Rome and got off the subject of his letter to say how difficult it was for him to see some of his Jewish brothers and sisters refuse to recognize Jesus as their Messiah. He longed that they would know the fulfillment he knew as a believer in Jesus. He begged them to believe, but surrendered himself to God’s plan and found peace and serenity in that trust in God. He realized that he was only an instrument and God was in charge.
Finally, we see Peter in the boat with the other disciples who were terrified of the storm in the lake. Peter wanted it all to stop. When the Lord told Peter to come to him, Peter went with joy at first, but then as he thought about what he was doing by walking on the water, he panicked. Immediately, Jesus put out his hand and Peter’s fears went away in the presence of the man Peter would come to believe was the Son of God.
As reflect on the experience of Elijah, Paul, and Peter, we are able to identify with them in the feeling of being lost, hopeless, and alone when life seems so overwhelming. We experience or hear of others whose homes are in danger of foreclosure, are frightened by the way congress and the senate are handling our financial futures, are anxious that we will lose our jobs or be reduced in salary, in fact, we fear of the impact of Covid19 on our health and income. We fear a future that we cannot control. We may want to follow Elijah into the desert and get away from it all, or feel like Peter who seems to be about to drown at sea, or like Paul who is frustrated that we cannot get our point across. But it is in moments like this that God’s presence invites us to move from fear to faith. We may want to wish to hold up in a place where no one or thing can get to us. But it is exactly in coming out of the cave or reaching out a hand to God and others that peace, faith, and calm can enter us. Our peace is not based only on money in the bank, but on allowing God’s presence to fill us and guide us to what is important.
There is a story told about a young man and an old preacher. The young man had lost his job and didn’t know which way to turn. So he went to see the old preacher. Pacing about the preacher’s study, the young man ranted about his problem. Finally, he clenched his fist and shouted, “I’ve begged God to say something to help me. Tell me, Preacher, why doesn’t God answer?”The old preacher, who sat across the room, spoke something in reply – something so hushed, it was indistinguishable. The young man stepped across the room. “What did you say?” he asked. The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. So, the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher’s chair. “Sorry,” he said. “I still didn’t hear you.” With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more. “God sometimes whispers,” he said, “so that we will move closer to hear Him.” This time the young man heard, and he understood. We all want God’s voice to thunder through the air with the answer to our problem. But God’s is the still, small voice… the gentle whisper. Perhaps there’s a reason. Nothing draws human focus quite like a whisper. God’s whisper means I must stop my ranting and move close to Him, until my head is bent together with His. Then, as I listen, I will find my answer. Better still, I find myself closer to God.