Homily for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time. I am sorry that it has been a long time since I have posted! I have been keeping fairly busy, but in getting back to posting hopefully this will give me a good impetus to better prepare my Sunday homilies. I have now moved my Saturday morning Mass to 7:30 which gives me a good solid block of time to get my homily either put together and/or finalized. The Gospel for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time is Matthew 14: 22-32
Once again, we see that our Lord goes to pray and to be with the Father. As He is praying, the boat is being tossed about in this dangerous storm. Waves are crashing against the boat, and the apostles are fighting for their lives to keep the boat from sinking in this big storm. Then they spot our Lord walking on the water. Sometimes it’s pictured like our Lord is walking through this calm lake, but our Lord would have been walking on the water in the midst of these massive crashing waves! What an awesome thing! The Apostles were terrified and Our Lord responds: “take heart!” Then Peter demands to be given the ability to also walk on the water. He is able to do so, but then he turns his gaze from our Lord, looks more toward the storm, and begins to sink. Our Lord then grabs him and pulls him up…
Often this event from the Gospel is used to describe the Church facing moments of crisis, and it also could be used to describe each individual facing a culture which is so opposed to God. If we are each one of the fish that the Apostles were sent out to catch, then we are in the midst of this stormy sea. It might even seem that the sea is filled with pollution, and it is hard to breath. We cannot allow the streams and the waves of the culture make us lose faith, make us any less ardent for working for the salvation of souls.
There are moments when it would be tempting to just leave the Church, to find some fresh air on the shore, but we know of course this would be deadly for a fish. We must keep swimming against the current and work to bring clean fresh waters around each one of us. This means we cannot allow the immoral decadence of the culture to lead us even in the slightest, away from a life of prayer and apostolate, a life that is dedicated to living one’s vocation with courage and conviction. This is not just the expectation of the priests, but for each single person.
Saint John Chrysostom once wrote something very challenging: “If we fail to play our part, God ceases to help us.” We can’t simply sit back and expect God to provide a smooth ride. We are talking about eternal life here, and our Lord warns us that there will be rough seas. When we picture the Apostles in the boat, it’s an active picture—they would have been doing everything possible to keep the boat from sinking and to escape the storm. What a relief in seeing our Lord once they recognize Him! The same for the fish in the water—-they would have been swimming with all their strength! We cannot simply think we can grow in holiness if there is not much of a daily prayer life or if we don’t ask our Lord for strength to be able to stick out our necks when we must in order to defend the faith, to defend family life, to defend sexual morality.
I can’t think of a more perfect Gospel to describe where we are at today. It seems that the waves are crashing down, and we wonder what is next. This is a great example of a Gospel passage that we could keep close by in our prayer lives, and go back often to it.
“The Lord inspires and sustains our wavering hope. He had set Peter’s feet firm on the surface of the water when the Apostle began to sink. When he sees us drowning in our doubts and worries, he stretches out his hand, which is the Word, and enlightens our mind if we walk hand in hand with Him, we will know no fear.” (St Gregory of Nyssa, De beautitudinibus, 6) We cannot allow the fear of the coronavirus, fear of rejection or persecution lead us to watering down how we live and profess our faith.
On Saturday the church celebrates the feast day of a very interesting woman, Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein. She was a Carmelite nun who was executed at Auschwitz in 1942. She was born Jewish, went to visit a friend and spent the whole night reading St Teresa of Avila’s book. She knew that the Gospel was true. Another moment of conversion for her was when she saw a woman go into a church from the street, carrying her shopping bags. Edith wanted to see what drew this woman into the church. When she entered, she saw the woman kneeling down praying silently. Edith was struck by this because in her experience the protestants and Jewish people attended services, but outside of that, there was not a visit to pray like this.
She eventually was baptized and her mother wept, but this did not stop her from being washed in the waters of Baptism. She was a very successful philosophy professor, but she felt called to the Carmelite life—a life of solitude, silence, penance, and prayer. She is a powerful example of one who went against the grain for the truth—the truth is of course the one on the cross, our savior. The very same savior who comes to us in the Eucharist.
We should remember the powerful example of that woman who went into the church to make a visit. There was not someTHING that the woman wanted to see, but someONE. This someONE was our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Those few moments spent with our Lord were what that simple woman needed, and it was a powerful moment of conversion for Edith Stein who was so moved by this.
Come to daily Mass. It is the greatest grace, and your life will never be the same. It is not only important for the interior life of our souls to receive the strength to swim against the current and to create fresh clean water, but it is a powerful force for apostolate and evangelization. Just remember the example of the woman carrying those shopping bags visiting our Lord! If you cannot come to daily Mass, come at least to stop and see our Lord for a few minutes everyday.
“Let go of your plans. The first hour of your day belongs to God. Tackle the day’s work that he charges you with, and He will give you the power to accomplish it” -St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
We can also always keep the words of our Lord in mind as we approach the tabernacle to pray and if we are ever disturbed by what we experience in silence: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (Matthew 14:27)