Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Aug. 10, 2014
(This homily is also part of my Missions Appeal for the Pontifical Missions Society, so there is a "sales pitch". If you feel so moved, give to the society at their website, www.onefamilyinmission.org or another to help with the crisis in the Middle East is www.cnewa.org which is the Near East Christian Welfare Association, a Pontifical Society as well.)
God speaks to us in the most unusual ways. A man was at his home when the rains started coming down, the weather forecast called for flooding and everyone was evacuating from the tiny town, except for this one man. The 4X4 rescue vehicle came by to offer a ride. The man replied, “No, God will save me, I have faith.” So the van drove away. The waters started to build up around the man’s porch and a rowboat came by to offer assistance, “No,” the man replied again, “God will save me, I have faith.” Finally the waters rose so high that the man had to go to his roof. A helicopter came by to rescue him, but once again the man said, “No, I have faith that God will save me.” Well, of course, the man drowned in the flood and when he stood before God in Heaven, he was a little bit more than upset. “I had faith in you God to rescue me, why didn’t you?” To which God replied, “I sent a 4X4, a rowboat and a helicopter, what more did you want?”
Yes, God speaks to us in the most unusual ways.
Elijah, had just slain the 400 prophets of Baal. He saw, and all saw the miracle of God throwing fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice that Elijah had offered to God to prove that God is the one true God. Yet, here he is not more than a month later, hiding in a cave, not knowing what to do. When Elijah waited for the Lord, he knew the Lord’s voice, and even when howling winds, earthquakes and fire came, Elijah knew that the Lord was not speaking through those events. For Elijah, the Lord spoke to him in a still small voice, a whisper.
The Gospel reading for today, offers a vivid portrait of Jesus’ followers. When they felt overcome by danger, Christ’s responds to their needs. After performing the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. The Apostles took a boat to meet him on the other side of the lake. Soon their boat “was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, which was between 3 and 6 in the morning, the darkest part of the night, He came toward them walking on the sea”. Surely, the great storm in the deep darkness before dawn petrified the men. They needed help, then they saw Him – coming to them.
The Apostles were in fear for their lives, just like Elijah had been in fear for his life. Despite all the miracles they had witnessed, they were awe-struck at the sight of Christ walking on water. They could not believe it, would not believe it, even though they had just witnessed the miracle of the fish and loaves.
Jesus calmed their fears by simply speaking to them, not shouting over the wind, but as the Master of the wind and waves, by simply speaking to the disciples, the disciples heard. Peter, who was having a doubting Thomas moment here, asked to be able to come to Jesus, so again Jesus gives the invitation to “Come”.
That is all we need to walk with Jesus, an invitation, which has already been given by Jesus. Peter WALKED on the water, but he looked at his surrounding situation and began to sink because of his lack of faith. He took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the turmoil around him. This has many applications to us today. How does God speak to us?
He uses His Church, to speak to us. He also uses crises to speak to us, to call us to action. God is speaking to us today to act to help our brothers and sisters who are in dire straits and are being killed for just being a Christian. The humanitarian need in the Middle East right now is tremendous, not just for Christians, but for others who are also suffering because of war and injustices being heaped upon them by godless forces. God is calling us to action, but what form will that action take? I can think of a few ways we can respond to the crises that are happening now in our world.
1: To Pray. Pope Francis says that prayer, intense prayer is needed for the Middle East.
2: To Fast. Fasting is a way to support your prayers. There are evil forces running through ISIS. How else can one describe the evil that is taking place “in the name of God”? : Beheadings, crucifixions, mass killings and a diaspora of Christians and other non-Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria.
3: To Give. The Pontifical Missions Society supports over 1150 mission dioceses around the world, and of course this appeal is for the support of these missions. We have over 9000 medical clinics in those dioceses, where people can come and receive the basic of medical care for little or no cost. We have over 10,000 schools and orphanages where child can live and learn in relative safety. We also support over 18,000 seminarians who will be serving as priests in the near future in these dioceses.
In giving to the Missions, we are also being the missionaries we were called to be by our Baptism. “To go and preach the Gospel to every creature”, to be agents of peace and comfort, and to give courage and hope to those who have lost hope.
Jesus was there for his disciples during the times of crises, during the dark night of the soul, when it seemed they lost all hope, and He will always be there for us with comfort and courage when we face our own dark and stormy nights.