Saturday, August 9, 2014

Aug. 10, 2014: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
Now that our students are back to school, they will have to soon face something they did not have to face during this summer--tests. There is nothing like a test that raises the anxiety level and stress in students. Sometimes pop quizzes are the worst. A student faced the following question on a social study pop-quiz: “Explain the phrase, ‘free press.’” We all know what that means, but sometimes under stress we just can’t think. So this particular student wrote down, “When your mom irons your pants for you.” His answer received a big, red ‘X’ mark, but the teacher also wrote, “cute.” The paradox is that although we dislike tests, we put our best effort forward and learn more while preparing for the test.

Have you ever been tested in your faith? Several times, Peter was tested in his faith. When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter strongly believed and trusted that Jesus was the Son of God. What about you? Is this your faith as well? Do you believe and trust that Jesus is your Lord and your God? But what happened to Peter in today’s
Gospel? While in the boat tossed by violent wind and waves, Jesus walked on water toward the boat. Peter was ready to believe Jesus, but he wanted to test Jesus--if he really was the Lord, he could give Peter the power to walk on the water. Jesus indeed gave Peter power and while his faith in Jesus lasted, he walked on the water. But when Peter saw the large waves approaching him, his trust wavered and he began to sink. Jesus reached into the water to pull Peter out and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Peter had the intellectual trust and belief, but not the trust and belief from the heart--that is, the living faith.

We have a tendency to think that if we love God, and He loves us, He’s going to bless us with the “good things of life.” And He does. The problem lies in our definition of the “good things of life.” Testing or trials of life are sometimes as much of a good thing as are a new car or health. It is important to realize that the test flows from God’s love for us. God tests our faith sometimes for our good and the good of others. The test makes our faith real and personal. If everything had gone smoothly, just as we envisioned, wouldn’t we have become very complacent? Would we have depended on and trusted the Lord so much? Would we really have known that He’s the one doing it all? We might think we could have done without those setbacks and problems and persecutions—but we’re wrong. We needed the testing.The test purifies our faith of selfishness and pride; it deepens our radical trust in His goodness and divine providence. The test prepares us for other crosses that we will face down the road in our lives.

What should we do when we are tested in our faith? Sometimes we feel like all is lost. We’ve all felt that. We’ve all felt like “it’s finished,” “we’re bankrupt.” Some of us are spiritually bankrupt. What should we do at those moments? Jesus showed us what he does--prayer in solitude. Jesus never began or ended anything without spending time alone in prayer with his Father. He was always equipped to handle anything because he was a man of prayer. We, too, should get on our knees. Although we do not see God with our eyes, which is the lowest kind of vision, in prayer we become aware of His presence in our heart and soul. This is what God was trying to teach Elijah in the First Reading. A crisis or a test may seem like an earthquake, a hurricane, or a forest fire; it overwhelms our senses. It’s such times as these that we need to kneel in prayer because prayer affords us time to gaze at Jesus to cry for help. Peter sank because he took his eyes off Christ. Our response toward testing times must be guided by assurance we have of the invisible reality: the presence of the Lord in our soul. It is in prayer that Jesus whispers to us,  “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”