Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Ps 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Matt 14:31
As I sat preparing the reflection for this Sunday, I heard the weather report forecasting that hurricane Isaias had risen to a category two tropical storm and was barreling down on the coast of Florida. The report made me recall some of the more devastating storms such as hurricanes Katrina and Maria and Super Storm Sandy. Although we are alerted to developing storms and can track their course, we are often alarmed by the potential devastation that these storms produce. It is no wonder that the ancient people were so frightened by the uncontrollable events of nature, especially since they thought these events reflected the anger of the gods.
In the first reading from Book of Kings, we see Elijah running away in great fear from Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel, who wanted Elijah killed. Elijah ran to Horeb, the mountain of God, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Because of their majestic beauty and peaks rising up to the heavens, mountains were considered sacred places. As Elijah frantically sought God, he did not find God in the mighty wind, the earthquake, or the fire. Rather, he found God in the way he did not expect, in the gentle whispering breeze. God often speaks to us in our daily lives through a “soft voice” that may be difficult for us to hear unless we take time to listen.
In the Gospel reading from Matthew, we see the disciples experiencing a violent storm on the Sea of Galilee. It is well known even today that sudden and violent storms occur on this sea, and even experienced fisherman are fearful of these forceful storms. As the disciples are struggling in their boat in the pre-dawn hours and see Jesus approaching them on the water, they become even more frightened as they believe he is a ghost. When Jesus extends the invitation to Peter to come to Him on the water, Peter has the courage to get out of the boat and the faith to walk on the water to Jesus. However, Peter became distracted by the fury of the storm around him and, in his panic, lost faith in his ability to reach Jesus and began to sink. Even when Peter was floundering, Jesus was there with His outstretched arm to save him. “Storms” are part of our human existence; we each experience these storms in different ways. As we step out in faith and courage in handling the storms of our life, let us hold firmly to Jesus, who promises to walk with us and who will not abandon us.
In the second reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, Paul faces a major storm in his life, namely acknowledging the fact that his own people, the Jews, had not accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah. His sadness was so great that he lamented, “I will willingly be condemned if I could help my brothers of Israel” (Romans 9:3). In his distress, Paul is willing to be cut off from Christ and, like Moses, was willing to be a type of sacrificial offering and forfeit his future with God for the people he loved.
Jesus may not always stop every storm from coming into our life, but we can be sure that as we live with the storm, Jesus will be with us in our struggle and will calm the storm in His way and in His time.
Sr. Mary T. Flood, OP