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Nineteenth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: I Kgs 19:9, 11-13; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33
1/ Reading I: RSV 1 Kings 19:9 And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 11 And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed forever. Amen.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 14:22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
I. THEME: We need to have a strong faith in God’s providence.
We will be surprised if we look back at our past: There are many things we thought they are impossible for us to possess; now we have them. There are some places we never thought we shall be there; we are not only there but also lived at there. There are obstacles we never thought we can overcome; we overcame them. Thinking about them makes us wonder that our life seems to be controlled by someone else, not us! Because there are things we wanted them to happen, but they didn’t happen; some things we didn’t want them to happen, but they happened.
Things like that not only happen for us today; but if we follow people’s experiences in today readings, we can recognize the familiar traces. In the first reading, the prophet Elijah felt very eager to participate in the competition in Mt. Carmel to show people who the true God is (1 Kgs 18:21-40); but when he must flee from the queen Jezebel, he felt indignant and blamed God for his flight. God appeared in the gentle breeze to remind him that He has His plan and Elijah must execute it, not according to his own plan. In the second reading, though was reserved to preach the Gospel for the Gentiles, Paul still cared for the Jews because of his love for them. He couldn’t understand why they don’t believe in Christ although many prophets foretold about him in the Scripture. At the end, he must acknowledge that God has His own plan for both the Jews and the Gentiles which he couldn’t fathom. In the Gospel, Jesus let Peter walk in the surface of water to come to him; but when Peter started to fear because of the storm, he was sunk and cried out for Jesus’ help. He immediately raised his hand to him and rebuked, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
1/ Reading I: Elijah’s experience of his relationship with God. He lived about 950 B.C.
1.1/ The reason for his flight: To understand it, we must come back to the previous chapter. He was the only remaining prophet of God and his mission is to recover the faith for the Israelites which had been lost. To achieve this goal, he told King Ahab to gather all the Israelites on Mt. Carmel to witness God’s power. He challenged 450 prophets of Baal to attend a competition to find out who the true God is. In this competition, each side shall receive a bull, divide it in a half and put them on top of woods but not to ignite a fire. Then each side prays to their god; whoever responds by sending fire from heaven to consume the meat, that one is the true God. They accepted Elijah’s challenge. All the Baal’s prophets cried out from the early morning until noon, there was no fire; but when the prophet Elijah prayed in the Lord’s name, He sent fire from heaven to consume both the meat and wood.
When all the Israelites witnessed this event, they bowed down to the ground and confessed, “The Lord is our true God!” Elijah commanded his people to bind all Baal’s prophets with ropes, brought them down to the foot of the mountain and killed them there by slitting their throats. Because of this killing, Queen Jezebel issued a degree to kill Elijah to make the compensation for her 450 prophets. Elijah must flee from her by going from North to South, climb up to Mt. Horeb where God handed the Ten Commandments for Moses. Partly because of his tiredness, partly because of the long journey and the lacking of food and water, he felt discouraged and wished for his death, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.” Then he lay down and slept under a broom tree; and behold, an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he ate and drank, and lay down again but the angel of the Lord came again a second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you.” And he arose, and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. There he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
1.2/ God appeared to the prophet Elijah: There are four facts which were reported in today passage.
(1) A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
(2) After the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
(3) After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
(4) After the fire a still small voice. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Many times in our life, especially during the time of facing great difficulties, we cried out to God for help; but we didn’t feel His presence. Sometimes due to extremely tiredness, we also behaved like the prophet Elijah and complained to God, “It is enough, please take my life away!” But after these moments, when our life is at peace, we receive good results from these fights. We know who helped us to fight when most people forsook us; we must acknowledge that our Lord is the hidden God. We can recognize Him in the gentle breeze though we never see Him yet.
2/ Reading II: Paul who lived two thousand years before us shared his experience.
2.1/ Paul wanted both the Jews and the Gentiles to be saved: Paul who lived a thousand years after the prophet Elijah had the same thinking. He conversed and became Jesus’ apostle for the Gentiles after the falling event from the way to Damascus to persecute Christians. Because of his zeal for people to believe in Christ, he overcame all obstacles to preach the Good News. Though he was very successful in preaching for the Gentiles, he must confront lots of oppositions and persecutions from the Jews, his own people.
In today passage, he shared his sincere thought as follows, “I am speaking the truth in Christ, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race.” We know how important Christ is for Paul’s life. He could speak out this sincere sharing because he so desires salvation for the Jews, his own people.
2.2/ Paul couldn’t understand why so many of his own people didn’t believe in Christ: The Jews inherit many privileges which the Gentiles don’t have. According to Paul, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ.”
However, God has His own plan and people can’t fathom that plan. It is due to the Israelites’ hardness that the Gospel is announced to the Gentiles and they are counted as God’s people. Paul himself confessed: God at last shall save the Israelites (Rom 11:25-26). When that thing shall happen, God is the only one who knows.
3/ Gospel: Jesus commanded Peter to walk on the surface of water to come to him.
This miracle happened on the Galilee Lake was reported right after the Multiplication of the loaves miracle to feed five thousand people by most of evangelists. Jesus wanted his disciples to continue their daily works so he commanded them to disembark and to cross ashore while he disperses people. After dispersing them, he went up to a mountain to pray. When darkness comes, he was still there alone while their boat was several miles from the shore and tortured by waves because they sailed against the wind.
3.1/ The apostles feared of both the storm and the ghost: Most of Jesus’ apostles are fishermen, they could be afraid of the storm a little; but when they saw a person walking on the surface of the sea, they were aghast because they think they were seeing a ghost. Jesus immediately said to them, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”
Fear and doubt are human instincts; but when people are enlightened by the intellect to believe and not to fear, they need to overcome these instincts. Peter has a reason to find out the truth by asking Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come!” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
3.2/ Fear is the reason for Peter’s sinking: Peter could walk upon the surface of water so he was no longer in fear or doubt. He knew the one who is standing before him is Jesus who has power to let him walking the water. But when he paid attention to the wind and waves and not to Jesus, he began to fear and to sink. When he sank, he cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Our life can be compared as the journey on the sea as Peter’s: most of the time at peace; but sometimes turbulent and nearly sinking. When we have a firm faith in God, we walk in peace amidst difficulties; but when we doubt about God’s presence or His power, we shall be waving by storms. In such moments, many of us felt God is absent and He let us fight alone; but actually He still accompanies us and is ready to save us when we start to sink.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Through today readings and our own experience, we learned that God’s hand is always with us in all events of our life.
– What shall happen in the future, where we shall go, who we shall meet, what we shall do, if we are successful or failure, etc., we don’t know them. However, we should imitate the exemplar of Abraham, our patriarch; we should go forward because we know that God’s hand shall never leave us.
– We should live the present moment in peace and do everything we can. We shouldn’t complain when facing too many obstacles, nor question God hastily when we don’t see the results of our works; nor condemn or foretell what shall happen to others, because the life of each person is in God’s providence.