Thursday, August 18, 2005

Do not be afraid

I was thinking of the stresses I mentioned in my previous post and I found Fr. Paul's homily for Sunday Aug 7th. It was very comforting.

Homily for Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 7, 2005

Today’s Scripture readings, from the Gospel of Matthew and the 1st book of Kings, portray a common theme for us: what is it to have faith in God? In our first reading, Elijah the prophet climbs Mount Sinai, also called Horeb, seeking the presence of the Lord. In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear about the apostles in a boat on the sea of Galilee.

Both the apostles and Elijah experience the miraculous power of God: one in a dramatic way - Jesus walking on the water, and one in a rather murky way - God appearing in a whisper.

While there are many differences in these two experiences, there is one common theme that links these two diverse stories: faith.

The prophet’s life was a difficult one. Being given the mighty task of proclaiming God’s word - a word that was often unwelcome by the powerful - helped to make one a lot of enemies. Every single prophet mentioned in the Old Testament, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah, and all the others, lost their lives because of their mission. So for Elijah, as he fled from the powerful and hid from those who wanted to take his life, faith must have seemed to him all that he had.

The apostles were in a somewhat different position. During the time of Jesus’ life and ministry, the apostles were engaged in a struggle to have this faith. Faith in God; faith in His Son Jesus. They had enough faith to accept His invitation to come and follow Him, but not enough faith yet to accept the mission He was going to be giving to them after His resurrection.

The apostles and Elijah are symbolic for you and me at various points in our life. Sometimes we have the faith of Elijah, prepared to boldly live out our faith in God, to make the sacrifices in life that faith demands of us. And Sometimes we have the faith of the apostles in today’s gospel: hesitant; afraid; confused. Sometimes we see our mission in life with clarity and understanding, sometimes with doubt and uncertainty.

What is common to both the stories of Elijah and the apostles is a continual reaching out to God for safety and understanding.

Our lives can oftentimes seem like the sea in today’s gospel reading. Sometimes we are right there in the boat with the apostles, being tossed about by the sea in darkness and despair. Sometimes the storms of this life seem to overwhelm us, other times we have the confidence of Elijah, ready to face anything that comes our way.

What is essential for us in both of these times is to do exactly what the characters do in today’s scripture readings: we must seek out the presence of God. Our readings this weekend make clear to us that God is present in every moment of life, perhaps most especially in times when we doubt or struggle.

When the forces of this life seem to be stacked against us: when everything seems to be holding us back, we must seek out God’s presence all the more. In the death of a loved one, when we face a serious illness ourselves, when we face the loss of job or home or whatever else, when we are tempted to think that we are all alone, we must challenge ourselves to recognize the presence of God with us.

In our gospel reading today Peter began to sink when he left the boat. At the moment that he began to focus more on the waves and the storm, and less on the presence of Christ with him, he begins to go under. The very same is true for us. When we begin to focus on the hardships of this life more than on the presence of Christ with us, we begin to sink into despair and hopelessness.

So as we celebrate this Eucharist today, let us recognize the presence of Christ with His Church. Let us focus only on Him, so that as we leave here and go out into the world, we may have the courage and faith of the prophet. When we face the challenges and storms of this life, let us remember the words of Christ: "take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

Fr. Paul Beach

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