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Through the Storm

August 13, 2017


A reflection for the 19th Sunday, Ordinary time, Year A. The readings are 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85; Romans 9:1-5 and Matthew 14:22-33.

“You of little faith.” I can imagine what it felt like to be told that by Jesus: “You don’t have faith. If only you had the faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell that mountain to move over there and it would move. You guys don’t have faith.” And this is the disciples he’s speaking with. And then they would have heard Jesus saying to this sinner or that pagan, “go, your faith has made you well.” What did that feel like? Those people had more faith than the disciples? I can imagine what it would feel like if Jesus told me that I didn’t have enough faith.
I think the problem is that we think that having faith has to do with believing in certain ideas or doing certain religious things: I have faith because I go to Mass on Sundays. I have faith because I pray the Rosary every day and I believe that it will make my life better. I have faith because I believe everything the Church teaches. I have faith because I believe that the bread and wine actually become the body, blood, soul and divinity, the full presence of Jesus Christ.

And that is part of faith. But not all of it. Faith has much less to do with belief than it has to do with Trust. Do we trust Jesus? That’s why Jesus says to Peter: “You of little faith; why did you doubt.” And you can be the most religious person in the world and still have moments of doubt. Especially during the storms in our lives.

Look at the first reading. This is the great prophet Elijah we’re talking about. Last week, at the Transfiguration, he was the one who appeared with Moses and was talking with Jesus. Elijah is the prophet who had so much faith that he was able to call down fire from heaven and defeated the prophets of Baal.  You should read that story from 1 Kings, chapter 18. In front of the whole people of Israel, Elijah challenges the 450 prophets of the pagan god Baal to a “duel” if you wish, to see who could call upon their god to rain down fire from heaven up on Mt. Carmel. You gotta have faith and trust to do that. The prophets of Baal built their altar and they did their dances and incantations and monkeyed and nothing. Elijah then taunts them: “where is your god? Is he sleeping? Is he traveling? So the prophets of Baal continue dancing around for a whole day and nothing.

Then Elijah builds his altar. He takes his time. It’s a show, like any magic show in Vegas. He sets it up. He places the bull offering on the altar with twelve stones for each of the tribes of Israel. He digs a trench all around the altar and and then he pours water over the altar and the offering. He then pours water over the altar twice more, so that there’s water everywhere and the trench is filled with water. He shows that there are no tricks. No trapdoors, no hidden fire sources; Just like David Copperfield. And then he prays. And God sends down fire from Heaven. So much fire that the offering is consumed, the altar, the water, the soil, everything is burned up. The people then rebel against the prophets of Baal and have them all killed. A great triumph for Elijah, a man of great faith and trust.

But then the evil queen Jezebel finds out what Elijah did and sends word to him that she will do to him 10 times over what he did to the prophets of Baal. Guess what Elijah does? He cowers in fear and runs away. In fact he is so scared and depressed that he stops eating and asks God to end his life. So much for faith and trust!

And that’s where we find Elijah at the beginning of the first reading today. He’s up on Mt. Horeb, hiding in a cave.

And in the second reading, St. Paul – again, a man of great faith and trust – actually says that he has great sorrow and anguish in his heart. This is because the Jews – his people – are not coming to believe in Jesus Christ. He is so down that he actually says that he sometimes wishes that he would be cut off from Jesus Christ if that would mean that all the Jews would convert. Even St. Paul had bad days.

And well…. We know the disciples had bad days. Today it’s not just a bad day. It’s a storm. The thing that just happened is that Jesus fed the 5000 with the two fishes and five loaves. And they hadn’t enough faith to believe that Jesus could feed all those people. But you know what happened just before that? They found out that John the Baptist had been killed. They’re not having a good day. Maybe that’s why Jesus wanted to be alone in prayer.

We all go through bad days and we all go through storms in life. Sometimes it’s a little storm; sometimes it’s a long hard storm. Often the winds are blowing against us. Some of you are going through storms right now. Do you trust or do you doubt? Because today Jesus says to you, “trust me.” Jesus comes walking over the waters through the storm of divorce and says, “Trust me.” Through the storm of disease: “Trust me.” Through the storm of addiction: “Trust me.” Through the storm of unemployment: “Trust me.” Through the storm of grief: “Trust me.” I am with you. You are not alone. Don’t doubt. Trust me.

This week I listened to an interview with a woman whose husband had suddenly died and left her with two young children. She was saying that people really don’t know what to say to someone in that situation. They mean well, but saying things like “Oh, this will pass” is not the right thing to say to someone who’s grieving the death of her husband. She said she realized how insensitive she also had been with others in similar situations. She said that instead of saying “this will pass” we should say, “I don’t know if this will pass; you don’t know if this will pass, but we will go through it together.” She made a point of emphasizing that we should say “we will go through it together” instead of “you” because what she really needed to hear was that she was not alone.

This is what Jesus tells us today. You are not alone. I don’t know why we have to suffer. The Church teaches that there is value to suffering, that suffering is redemptive, but most of the time I don’t get that. I don’t know why we have to suffer and God never tells us why there is suffering. But He does tell us that He will suffer with us. We are not alone.

Not only is Jesus with us in the storms of life He is also with us in the silence. When Elijah was waiting for God at Mt. Horeb, there was an earthquake, but God was not in the earthquake. There was fire, but God was not in the fire. There was a storm, but God was not in that storm. God was in the silence; in the still small voice; in the tiny whispering sound. In the midst of the storms in life, can you find some silence where God can meet you?

Sometimes you have to go through the storm in order to find Christ. That takes trust. And not only will Jesus come walking over the stormy waters, but he will call you out of the boat, so you too can walk over the waters. So you too can weather the storm.

Don’t doubt. You will not sink. Keep your eyes on Him; trust Him.

Today Jesus says to you: Come. Have faith. Trust in me. You are not alone.

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From → English, Reflections

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