Homily, 19th Sunday OT A
Fr. Paul D. Williams, Jr., Pastor
In the Gospel today, after the great miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves, we witness another miracle: Jesus walks on water. The miracle here is not so much the “on water” part, but the walking part. Here the disciples in the boat were being “tossed about by the waves” with the wind against them. Not the only time the disciples find themselves in trouble at sea, frightened, except this time Jesus is not with them. Alone and on the troubled sea, you can imagine their fright and their crying out for help.
So the Lord comes to them, walking. Not running, not rushing or panicked. He comes to them calmly, walking on the sea in the midst of the torment. And the lesson is clear: for God, there are no troubles, and in Him, there is no fear.
Elijah experiences the same thing. He is told the Lord will be passing by, and he sees, “A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks — but the LORD was not in the wind... an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake... a fire— but the LORD was not in the fire... a tiny whispering sound...” and Elijah hid his face in his cloak, for there was the Lord in the whisper.
Life has its fill of tempests at sea, sudden storms, earthquakes and fires. But the Lord is none of those. Instead, he is peace, tranquility, serenity, calm, and courage. So he comes walking to the disciples and says “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Peter, overjoyed to see the Lord, but still incredulous, says “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Peter, with the great trust and faith in the Lord, begins to walk on the water too, still in the midst of the storm, because the Lord is stronger than the storm. But he makes a mistake: he took his eyes off Jesus. As long as he was looking at the Lord and walking towards him, he was fine. But he looks around.
It was a command that brought Peter out on the water. His walking on the water depends not on the sea or its circumstances, but on the Will of the Lord, who rules heaven and earth, the winds and the sea. He forgets that he was sustained by this Will; his faith in the One who can do all things wavers. He no longer thinks about the presence of the Lord and his strength and peace, but instead he lets the storms of the world fill his mind, pushing out the Lord. He sees how strong the wind had become and the fear returns, and Peter begins to sink. But he still has the presence of mind to call out “Lord, save me.” Jesus still has not rebuked the storm - it still rages - and he was pleased with Peters trust and faith. But he stretches out his hand and catches Peter. “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Only then do the winds die down. And those present know that only God can command the waves and the sea, and they worship him. “Truly, you are the Son of God.” The lesson we learn is simple: in the midst of trouble, keep your eyes on Jesus. He will come to you walking, calmly and will stretch out his hand to you should you falter.
Christ walks in our midst today. He has given so much to us, despite our little faith and frequent doubts. Saint Paul reminds us of the blessings we have received. He speaks of his people, the 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.” The Church is now the heir to those promises. The boat on the troubled waters is the Church in the midst of the world, and Christ comes to her with his hand outstretched.
Ours is the adoption: by baptism we are made children of God, created anew, born again, adopted into his family, and have access to the fullness of salvation in his Holy Catholic Church, truly the People of God.
Ours is the glory: the Glory of Christ fills us, and his Glory is the Cross. In the sacrifice of service, we share in his glory, His Body on Earth, building up his kingdom on earth so that we might prepare all for the glory that awaits us.
Ours is the New and Everlasting covenant: the Law of the Gospel, preached by Christ and written on our hearts. He will be our God, we will be his people. And this is his New Commandment: Love one another as He has loved us. (CCC 1970)
Our is the giving of the law, for Christ guides his Church infallibly through the ages, through its moral teaching and the guidance of the Magisterium, the teaching authority of the Church, which is a sure and straight guide against the tempest of each age.
Ours is the worship: He gave us the sacraments, sanctifying our ordinary life, making us holy, to strengthen us on our journey. He gave us the incredible gifts of Sacred Scripture and the Mass, where his sacrifice at Calvary is made present so that we can participate in it and share in its fruits.
Ours is the promise: the Promised Holy Spirit poured out on the Nascent Church at Pentecost, the promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against this Church that Christ founded on Peter.
Ours are the Patriarchs: we have the witness of two thousand years of Saints, who are, as it were, soldiers of Christ, laying down their lives so that their fellow people might be guided by their example, and guarded by their prayers of intercession.
And from us, according to the flesh, is the Messiah, who gives us his very flesh, his body and blood, in the Eucharist, so that we might partake of him and become like him, sharing in his divinity.
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