Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: “Peter said, ‘Lord, command me to come to you on the water.’ Jesus said, ‘Come.’ Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:28-30)
By: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Homily for Sunday August 9 2020
“‘Beware!’ warned the nutritional expert to the sizable crowd assembled before him in the auditorium. ‘The material we regularly put into our stomachs is enough to kill most of us. Red meat is awful for you. Soft drinks erode your stomach lining. Chinese food is loaded with MSG. Vegetables are routinely sprayed with pesticides that can be disastrous to your health, and none of us realizes the long-term harm caused by the microorganisms in our drinking water. But there is one substance that is the most pernicious of all, and we all have eaten it already or surely will before long. Can anyone here tell me what food it is that causes the most grief and suffering for years after eating it?’ An elderly man in the front row stood up and soberly proclaimed, ‘Wedding cake.’” (Original source unknown)
Indeed, as this wizened old gent testified, what began for him as a mouthful of sweetness had become after many years of marriage a morsel far less palatable. I’d imagine his long-suffering wife may have testified to the same truth. And though this particular couple may be an extreme, I’m further imagining that few newly-weds have any idea what hard work it will be for a wedding to become a marriage. Surely there will be turbulence just down the road, the high winds and swelling waves of two lives struggling to become one, storm enough for even the heartiest couple.
Surely, though, storms and struggles are an integral part of every human life. Married or not, we will all spend considerable energy and anxiety over a lifetime keeping our boats afloat and our heads above water. That’s just life! Ever since the Garden of Eden, human life has been marked by toil, the struggle only intensifying when we try to go it alone, that is, apart from God. Indeed, a recently spotted bumper sticker says it all: “If God is your co-pilot, swap seats!” Truly, unless God is at the rudder of our lives, we’re in trouble!
The gospel passage we hear today invites our imaginations to conjure a nighttime scene. While Jesus remains on shore in prayer, the disciples are huddled in a fishing boat several miles out on the Sea of Galilee as wind and waves threaten to founder the craft. Suddenly, from the boat the disciples spy a ghost-like figure coming toward them walking upon the turbulent sea. It is Peter who first realizes that it is not a ghost but Jesus. And, as seems to happen frequently to this first of the apostles, Jesus tests Peter’s faith. “Peter said, ‘Lord, command me to come to you on the water.’ Jesus said, ‘Come.’ Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:28-30) Miraculously, Peter is able to walk upon the turbulent sea as long as he keeps his gaze fixed upon Jesus. It’s only when Peter diverts his focus, allowing his eyes to stray from Jesus to the raging waters beneath him that the disciple begins to sink. And so it is for us.
While there surely are those days when it seems we’re living in the Garden of Eden before the serpent, the apple and curiosity wrecked everything, many more of our days are spent upon the anxious seas. We’re many miles from the assurance of shore, and even though the skies are blue and the breeze balmy, we know too well that stormy weather is surely in the forecast. And so we fish for our daily sustenance, one eye on the choppy waters, the other eye scanning the heavens. And as long as the weather remains fair, it seems to work. But come a storm, that one eye focused on heaven shifts focus, both eyes now intent more upon what threatens than upon The One who can save. Furiously we struggle to keep our craft afloat, forgetting the wisdom of that bumper sticker: “If God is your co-pilot, swap seats!”
Indeed, earthly life can be a stormy experience, so be sure Jesus is in the boat with you.