This Sunday is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary time. The readings for this week speak of God’s saving presence among His people. The readings also speak to our need for trusting Faith in our loving and providing God Who always cares for us, and the necessity of prayer in the storms of life.
The prophet Elijah was sent to Israel by Yahweh to bring His people back to true worship. Elijah’s trusting faith in the power and presence of Yahweh enabled him to defeat the 450 pagan priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. Consequently, Queen Jezebel sent murderous henchmen after the prophet. Elijah, sustained by food provided by God through an angel, fled for forty days and nights. He finally reached Horeb, the mountain where God had earlier established His covenant with Israel under Moses. Elijah might have expected a spectacular miracle from God to protect and vindicate him, or His appearance with great power in thunder and lightning to bolster his faith, like the one Moses had been granted on that very spot. However, the presence of God was not in the spectacles of thunder, earthquake or fire but in “a tiny whispering sound.” Elijah acknowledged God’s presence by covering his face and emerging from the cave where he had taken shelter. He was content with God’s quiet sign of His presence, and was consoled, trusting that his God was helping and protecting him.
Paul, in the second reading, describes the blessings which Christ the Messiah, as the fulfillment of “the Law and the prophets,” brought to mankind. Deeply moved, Paul cries out in passionate grief for his countrymen, the Jews. As a nation, they refused to see Christ as the Messiah promised to them by God through their patriarchs and prophets, and thus, have forfeited their status as God’s chosen people. Paul later tells them that God’s plan called for the Jews to reject Jesus so that a few believers, like Paul, would be forced to carry the Good News outside Judaism and to evangelize to the Gentiles. The result would be the salvation of the whole world as well as the reconciliation of the Jews and the Gentiles.
The Gospel episode occurred during an unexpected storm on the Sea of Galilee in the early morning hours. As Jesus approached the apostles, miraculously walking on water, He calmed their fears by telling them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” The Gospel also explains how Peter lost his trusting faith in Jesus for a few seconds when he initially encountered the storm. He consequently failed during his attempt to walk on water, but Jesus lifted him up. This incident not only deepened Peter’s faith but enabled him to know Jesus as the Son of God.
We, too, are invited to approach Jesus with strong faith in His ability to calm the storms in our lives. It is the presence of Jesus which gives us peace even in the wildest storms of life: storms of sorrow; storms of doubt, tension and uncertainty; storms of anxiety and worry; storms of anger and despair; storms of temptations and storms in family relationships. But this demands a personal relationship with God, with Jesus, enhanced through prayer, meditative reading of Scripture and active participation in the Holy Mass and the Sacraments of the Church.
We must pray to God every day with trusting faith for strengthening our personal relationship with Him and for acknowledging our dependence on Him. But when we have no time for formal prayers after a long day, let us use the short prayer that Peter used in the gospels: “Lord, save me,” or the prayer of the mother of the possessed girl: “Lord, help me.”
Just like Elijah and the apostles on the boat, we can miss God’s presence by limiting our experience of Him because of certain challenges, forgetting that He is ever present in our lives. The readings remind us that we have to experience God’s presence in our lives and listen carefully to everything going on around us, because we encounter God in insignificant as well as spectacular events.
Next Tuesday is the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because this is a holy day of obligation, we will have two Masses that day, one at 8:00 am and another at 7:00 pm.