19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: 1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a

Second Reading: Romans 9:1-5

Gospel: Matthew 13:44-52

We all are here because we are men and women of faith, regardless of whether that faith is strong or weak, mixed with doubts and filled with questions that have no certain answers. There are moments in our lives when we experience the powerful presence of God, moments when we experience spiritual joy and peace. But then, there are also times when we take our eyes off Jesus, when we struggle with God, moments when we even feel the absence of God, moments that mystics call “the dark nights of the soul.”

We have a prophet in the O.T. named Elijah. He lived in a period of history characterized by profound political and social changes. He feared for his life because the queen was deadly intent on killing him. Elijah is forced to flee to the Mountain of Horeb. On the mountain, he thought that he was in the presence of God when there was a mighty wind, “after the wind came the earthquake, after the earthquake came a fire” but God was not in them. In the past, God had always manifested himself to Moses through spectacular things. But Elijah, to his surprise, discovered that God was not in the wind, the earthquake nor in the fire but in the sound of a gentle breeze.

His experience is also what happens to us all. Many of us look for God in extraordinary events. God has a new face; he is gentle and full of compassion, slow to anger and rich in kindness – the sound of a gentle breeze.

When we read in the gospel that Jesus cures the sick, approaches and touches the lepers, drives out devils, we understand immediately that through his actions, Jesus is revealing the love of the Father for all those who suffer in the body or in the spirit, that God is the God of the gentle breeze in Elijah’s story.

In today’s gospel, we read the story of Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. This story has a lot to teach us about who Jesus is, but it also teaches us about the Church on its journey through the world, and about the life of every believer.

The Jews believed that the sea was the domain of supernatural demonic forces. A rough and stormy sea was regarded as the work of hostile spirits living in the waters. By walking on the raging waves and calming the stormy sea, Jesus is showing himself to be one who has power and total control over these hostile forces.

The boat on the sea is one of the earliest Christian symbols for the Church on its journey through the world. Just as the boat where the disciples were was tossed about by the waves, so is the Church pounded from all sides by worldly and spiritual forces hostile to the values of love, justice and peace, hostile to what God’s message is all about. In the midst of crises, Jesus comes to restore peace and harmony in the Church. But he comes in a form and manner in which he may easily be mistaken for the enemy. He comes in a way that makes many well-meaning Christians cry out in fear, “It is a ghost!” But if we listen carefully, we shall hear through the storms of life his soft, gentle voice whispering in the breeze, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Yes. If we believe his word and take him on board, the storms in our lives can easily subside and we can find rest from our crises.