19th. Sunday, Year (A)
(1st. Kings 19:9, 11-13; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, today’s Gospel reading took place about half-way through Jesus’ public ministry. A short while before, Jesus and His disciples had been caught in a storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee with Jesus asleep in the stern of the boat. His disciples -- in great alarm -- awakened Him most urgently and He calmed both wind and waves by words of authority and a gesture of peace. The disciples had been amazed and said to one another:
Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him! (Mark 4:41)
In today’s Gospel reading, even though Jesus had just miraculously fed the 5,000, the disciples were still unclear about Him – Who is this? – for when Jesus approached walking on the sea towards them as they were struggling under yet another of the unpredictably sudden and quite vicious storms on Galilee, they thought they were seeing a ghost! Instead, therefore, of taking comfort at the sight of Him, they were even more frightened of Him than they were of the dangerous storm, all of them, that is, except Peter whose particular love for Jesus together with his native courage and personal confidence on the waters of ‘his own’ Sea of Galilee, led him to cry out:
Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water!
People of God, when the bark of Peter is struggling today, not now on the Sea of Galilee, indeed, but in storms all over the world, the cry shouted by so many is, ‘Change the teaching of the Church, make it easier for modern people to accept! Peter had thought he recognized Jesus and wanted to walk to Him and then with Him facing up to the stormy waters; a most laudable desire but one that Peter was not yet quite strong enough in faith to sustain. You might say that Jesus was only half-way-through training Peter at this point in His public ministry. But Peter’s love for Jesus, and God’s subsequent special blessings and forgiveness, would eventually lead him to that degree of fidelity he had long aspired to.
In today’s storms of all kinds, but more particularly concerning marriage difficulties and gay/lesbian life-styles, the world’s advice and popular cry is not to ‘face the storm along with Jesus’ but rather -- having lost or repudiated their own Catholic faith and Christian upbringing -- to take over from Jesus and seek to calm the storm themselves by setting up secular institutions, changing and distorting the meaning of pertinent Christian words such as ‘marriage’ and ‘love’, ‘fidelity’ and ‘sin’, thus making things easier for those not committed to faith, and betraying what Jesus taught and Mother Church has always believed and proclaimed! Mother Church from the very beginning knew of such Greek and Roman sexual habits -- she could neither avoid nor ignore them they were so widespread among the ‘great and the good’, the powerful and the literate, in the Roman world -- but not only did she in no way approve of them in her pattern for a Christian way of living for redemption and eternal fulfilment in Jesus under the power of His Spirit, in fact, she explicitly forbade such practices for her faithful. How could Catholics so close to Jesus walk in the Spirit according to the flesh?? Compromise and fudges, dear People of God, have nothing to do with doctrinal and doctrinally-connected teaching that is authentically Catholic – universal, for all peoples, of all times and places – which Mother Church’s countless saints and martyrs (many famous throughout the world, but many, many more now un-nameable but not unknown) have lived to the full, being prepared, willing, and even considering themselves privileged, to die for such teaching.
The great fallacy invoked by those who want to obliterate all difference and difficulty is their assertion that Jesus came to convert the whole world. He did indeed come to evangelize the world, but He was always aware that though many would be called, nevertheless, few would allow themselves to be chosen, few would want to take up their cross and follow Him. Didn’t He feel it necessary to speak frequently and publicly in parables? Indeed, He questioned most seriously whether He would find faith on earth when He would return as Son of Man in glory.
Unlike so many prominent Catholics and publicists of today, Jesus was not afraid of allowing former followers to leave His side:
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him.” Then many of His disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that His disciples were murmuring about this, He said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him. And He said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by My Father.” As a result of this, many (of) His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:56,60–68)
Dear People of God, St. Paul, in our second reading, felt deep anguish of heart because most of his own Jewish people were failing to recognize, and showing themselves unwilling to turn to, Jesus for the salvation Paul and his fellow Apostles so whole-heartedly proclaimed in the name of Jesus. And ultimately, it was not to be a storm of nationalist emotion calling all Israelites to arms, not a political earthquake brought about by secret plotters and schemers against Rome, not even the consuming fire of divine justice proclaimed by John the Baptist, that would inaugurate salvation; no, each and every one of Paul’s fellow Israelites, like each and every Christian in the world today, would have to hear and recognize, recognize and respond to with love, love and follow faithfully to the end, that tiny whispering-sound of conscience, of the Father calling to Jesus all who are of good will and longing for salvation:
The LORD was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was fire—but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave and the LORD spoke to him.