Weathering the Storm


A homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A - Matthew 14:22-33

If we open our eyes and ears to what are going on around us, we will see that we are living in a turbulent and chaotic world.

More than ever, the world is experiencing international problems such as the threat of nuclear war, acts of terrorism and violence in many countries of Europe, and even in our own country.

Moral values concerning marriage, the family and the rights of the elderly and the unborn have been consistently under attack, and religious liberty has been severely restricted by the state.

We are living in an environment of tumultuous waves of struggle, division and tensions. Besides all these are individual storms that we encounter in our personal and family lives such as serious illness, financial insecurities, broken and strained relationships.

We are often filled with fear and uncertainties and wonder how we can pull through these trials and difficult situations.

The Gospel reading we have just heard is particularly relevant to all these in our daily lives today and it gives us hope on how to deal with these trying circumstances of our lives.

In this Gospel account, we see Peter showing us an example of how to do precisely that.

The Gospel says that when the apostles saw Jesus walking on the water towards them in their boat being tossed by the waves, they thought that they were seeing a ghost. For they had left Jesus many hours ago on the shore and the boat had gone several miles away.

When Jesus said: “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid,” it was only Peter who reacted and he said: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you in the water.” He said this because he knew Jesus and His power. Jesus had once before calmed the winds and the waves when the same disciples woke Him up in the midst of a storm. And, remember that it was only Peter who responded correctly to Jesus when He asked the disciples the question: “Who do you say that I am?” He said: “You are the Messiah, Son of the living God!”

And so Peter did what seemed impossible. He walked on the water amidst the raging waves and the howling wind. For as long as he focused his gaze on Jesus, he could walk on the water. But when he got distracted and focused on the waves and the wind, instead of on Jesus, he began to sink.

My brothers and sisters, this is the message for us this Sunday. We do not expect to be immune from the hardships and problems faced by us and all our fellow voyagers through this life. In the midst of the storms of our daily lives, we should not let our fears cripple us because the Lord is always present for us, always inviting us to come to him in the midst of the storms of our lives. If we continue walking and focusing our gaze on Christ with trust and faith, we will not sink into despair but He will bring us safely to shore and then the harbor of eternal life.

But even if we falter in our walk towards Him and sink on the water, He is always there to take us by the hand and pull us up into safety when we call upon Him to save us. That is why we need to know Christ, really know Him, so we can love Him more and call on Him anytime in the midst of the winds and waves that batter us as we go through life, so that we can call on Him with mature faith, courage, without fear, and with complete trust.

I have always been touched by a story, which perhaps many of you have previously heard:

A group of business professionals was gathered for their monthly luncheon. As was their custom once each year, they invited their pastors to join them. After the meal they had scheduled a famous actor to provide some entertainment as people were enjoying coffee and dessert. The actor stood before them dramatically reciting lines from famous plays and poetry. At one point he invited requests from those in attendance. One elderly priest rose and spoke. “Would you recite for us Psalm 23?” The actor, a bit surprised by the unusual request, finally agreed. He said,” I will certainly do that for you, Father. I know the Psalm. The Sisters made us memorize the Psalm and recite it in class every day. I’ll agree to your request under one condition. After I recite the psalm, I’d be honored if you would then recite it too.” Reluctantly, the elderly priest agreed.

So the actor presented a stunningly beautiful recitation of Psalm 23, to which people responded with enthusiastic applause. Then he turned to the priest and said, “Okay, Father, your turn.” So the old priest rather hesitantly stood and began reciting the famous psalm.

“The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.”

In verdant pastures he gives me repose;

Beside restful waters he leads me;

he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk in the dark valley

I fear no evil; for you are at my side

With your rod and your staff

that give me courage.

You spread the table before me

in the sight of my foes;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me

all the days of my life;

And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

for years to come.

When he finished, there was no applause, just hushed silence. The people, so moved by his simple recitation, were sitting with tears running down their faces. After a few moments the actor rose and spoke. “Ladies and gentlemen, I spoke to your ears. But Father has spoken to your hearts. And here’s the difference. I know the Psalm. But this man knows the Shepherd.”

Do we know our Shepherd, the Lord who walked on the water? The Lord who saved Peter from drowning? If so, how much do we really know Him? We are all given the opportunity to know Him -- in the silence of our hearts at prayer, through His word, Holy Scriptures, through the Eucharist where we receive Christ’s Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity into our very own bodies and souls.

A one-flesh union which is the most intimate relationship we can have with a person. And that is why each time we receive Him, we should be well prepared, making sure that we are properly disposed – meaning that we are in the state of grace, that is, that we have no unconfessed mortal sin and we have fasted one hour before. Then when we have received Him, talk to Him intently, devoutly.

At this special moment after receiving Him, we can say, You, Lord are my Shepherd, even though I walk through the valley of the shadows of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. And I want to dwell in your house, now and forever. #

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