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19th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME 2014

Jesus Walks on Water

Today’s Gospel is one of those amazing events in the Bible that gives clear evidence of who Jesus is, that he is God, that he has power over the elements of the earth, that he can even walk on water. It is also a story that most Christians can identify with because the actions of Peter captures the many challenges we face in the world and our struggle to follow Jesus. It is a battle between living by fear or walking by faith. We live in fear when we allow the difficult circumstances in life to determine our behavior. We walk by faith when we have a relationship with the Lord based on a life of prayer, and then when the struggles of life come we are able to hear and follow his voice.

Often times fear becomes the main guiding voice in life. In the first reading from Kings, Elijah was running away in fear from an evil queen who was seeking to kill him. But isn’t it o.k. to avoid someone who is seeking your life? Of course. But what happens was fear consumed him and was the only source of his decisions. And usually when fear guides our decisions we make poor choices. (Divorce, War, etc.). Elijah eventually goes into hiding on top of a mountain in a cave. Here in this secluded place he began to pray, to ask God to reveal himself. But first God tested him. We heard that there were several things that happened: First there was a strong wind, then an earthquake, and then a blazing fire. But God was in none of these. It was in the silence that Elijah heard God speak to him in a “tiny whispering sound.” After hearing God’s voice Elijah had the confidence to go back and face his fears. The lesson is that we often give so much attention to the worldly things that we don’t hear God. Often we let anxiety, fear, or anger be the major influences in our life. But to hear God we have to silence the world around us, shut off the noise, not be consumed with anxiety, and listen for the whisper of his voice in our hearts. Then we can act.

This means we need to have a life of prayer. We need to find a quiet time and place and listen for the Lord. If we are not spending quiet time with God in prayer, eventually the troubles of life will consume us and overwhelm us. Do you spend time with God in silent prayer? Have you heard his encouraging voice lately? Prayer was very important to Jesus. It was the main activity that he did. How much more so should we? In the Gospel today, Jesus, like Elijah, climbed up a mountain by himself to pray. Jesus knew the power of prayer. Prayer is powerful because it elevates us and puts us in the presence of God. We should all have a place where we do that. Perhaps a quiet room in your home or outside in your yard. Perhaps stopping by the church and spending time in from of the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle. Maybe early in the morning or late in the evening when the world is silent.

I invite all of you to spend no less than five minutes in silent prayer a day. If we are not praying we are not hearing the voice of God. And so we are more susceptible to the fears all around us, to the elements of the world. Yes, we should respect the power of nature, the elements of earth, wind and fire. I mean who would not get out of the way of a tornado or a raging fire. And we should pay attention to the chaos of world events going on around us. Who is not concerned about the wars and rumors of wars in our world? But the point is that we often are more influenced by the power of nature or the noise of world events than we are by the voice of God. One fills us with fear and anxiety and the other gives us courage and peace. Which voice should we spend more time listening to?

We all face storms in life. We all face difficulties. And God knows that. In fact God allows it in order to teach us how to deal with them! To help us to know our need for Him. But we might thing, isn’t God supposed to make our life easier? Isn’t he supposed to help us right away? No he’s not. God doesn’t make our life easier all the time, but he wants us to discover that he is with us when life is not easy, at our darkest hour, at the time when we are most in need. And so from the mountain Jesus looks down and sees that the disciples on the boat are in danger. But he does not go to them right away. He waits until they have no control. We sometime think we are in control of our life when everything is going fine. But then the storms hit, life betrays us and takes a turn for the worse. It is in these dark moments that we discover how weak we are, how we don’t trust God. And we begin to follow fear and anxiety which really come from the voice of the Evil One speaking to our hearts. So loud becomes his voice that we can’t recognize the voice of God.

When Jesus does finally come, it is very late at night, and the disciples were terrified, cried out in fear, and called him a ghost. They did not recognize him. We get so used to doing our own will or following our fears that God’s voice, his plan of salvation, are scary to us. So Jesus says: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Fear prevents us from recognizing God. That’s why, even though Jesus spoke to them, they still didn’t recognize his voice. Finally, Peter, motivated by faith, even though it was little, begins to move toward Jesus walking on the water! What a great lesson! We as Christians have God on our side. He doesn’t just look down from his high place in Heaven, but he comes down and enters into our storms and tells us to not be afraid. This allows us to start having faith, even a little, which begins to guide us in the storm, to help us rise above the troubles of life and give us hope.

But what happens to Peter? Well, something we all have experienced as Christians: Peter takes his eyes off Jesus. We do that, too. Whether it is in times of financial difficulties, family crisis, going through a break-up, problems at work, or facing health problems or troubling world events. We go from hope to despair. After having some courage that God will lead us through, we realize that we are still in the midst of a bad storm and we lose faith. We take our eyes of the Lord and sink back into fear, anger, and anxiety. Our emotions take control of us and we fill God is absent. But it is in these times that Jesus is closest to us. We need to just call out to the Lord in prayer, even if all that we can do is to say: “Lord, save me!” And Jesus reaches out and catches us. But we, like Peter, are taught a lesson when Jesus says: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” We are human and we are weak. But Jesus is God. He is our savior. And often we don’t remember this until we see our need for salvation, until we face a crisis in life.  He is there even when we don’t see him or think the Christian way is too hard to follow. He comes to us and says “Do not be afraid!”

What is the big lesson here? What is Jesus trying to teach us? He is trying to teach us to walk on water, to rise above the sorrows of life and the troubles of the world and not be drowned by our emotional reactions to them; to live a life of faith in the Son of God and to not be afraid of anyone or anything, not even death, because no matter how bad things get, the Lord is with us and death has no power over us.

This Friday we will celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. Death had no power over her because she lived a life of prayer and had perfect faith in Jesus. When her passing from this life came, she did not fear but kept her eyes on Jesus who took her into Heaven both body and soul. Let’s ask her this week to teach us how to pray, to help us to listen to the voice of our Savoir, and to never doubt, but to always trust in him, especially during the storms of life. Amen.

Father Timothy Gallagher

8-8-14

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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