Aug. 13, 2017: 19th Sunday A
Click to hear Audio Homily
This weekend marks the first anniversary of the historic flooding in August 2016 in Baton Rouge in which the prolonged rainfall submerged thousands of homes and businesses. One woman who blogged her whole experience at the time of flooding last year wrote, “I must tell you that throughout these most stressful hours [of waiting to be rescued from flooding in my neighborhood], I heard no cursing, but only prayer, acceptance, praise and thanksgiving expressed by so many people. As we waited for the boat, at least a hundred people standing in line, one of our neighbors called out to all the people waiting: ‘Will you pray with me? Let’s thank and praise God for his protection.’ And many joined her. The others stood silently, respectful. At a shelter, one woman told me that at least 4-feet of water had entered her home. She did not have flood insurance, but she was utterly serene, trusting that God would make a way for her. This was evidenced EVERYWHERE!”
As I read her blog, I wondered if I would have been as calm. When a turbulent event happens to any of us, it is natural for us to panic and lose focus of who we are and what we need to do. We are disciples of Jesus, who are taught by Our Lord not to be afraid, not to worry, not to doubt, but to trust. However, even the best of us can forget these truths. Take for example what happened to Peter in today’s gospel passage.
Upon seeing Jesus walking on the water nearby the storm-tossed boat, Peter daringly asked Jesus to give him the grace to step out of the boat on the water to walk toward him. Peter knew that walking on water would be an impossible task on his own abilities. After witnessing Jesus perform numerous miracles, especially feeding five thousand people earlier that day, Peter felt confident that Jesus could do this for him. Peter’s first brave steps on the water were miraculous, but upon seeing a violent spray of waves whipped up by wind, Peter began doubt whether Jesus could sustain him on the water. That split second of doubt, took his focus off of his trust in Jesus, and Peter began to sink into the water. Peter’s powerlessness reawakened his need and trust in Jesus, so he cried out to him, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter’s hand to pull him out of the sea of doubt with a gentle reproach, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Do you see yourself in Peter and his experience in the sea? Perhaps you went through a life experience of being overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. Over the years, I’ve met men and women who have taken their focus off their trust in Jesus during a turbulent or overwhelming challenge and have given up on faith. They tried to rely on their strength and resolve, but the problem seemed insurmountable. Along their journey in life, someone reawakened their need to trust and seek Our Lord. Like the woman during last year’s flooding asking all her neighbors to join in prayer, we too encounter persons in our own lives who remind us that while we have lost focus on Our Lord, Jesus has not lost sight of us. Jesus has not withheld his love or his forgiveness; we just looked away.
After her harrowing day of being rescued from flooding, the woman posted on her blog a prayer that put her entire day’s experience in perspective.
O Good Master, what a trial You put me through, what a sword thrust into my heart, never will I be consoled! And despite all that, I give You thanks. I bless You. You have used this horrible trial to detach me from the things here-below and attach me more totally to You, to You alone, my Love, my Life, my Spouse.
- By St. Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880–1906)
How do we get to the point of going through turbulent times without sinking in the sea of doubt? Just as Peter spent time with the Lord and wanted to follow him, we grow in our love for and trust in Our Lord through our daily prayer and sacrifice, learning from our past mistakes and renewing our resolve through receiving sacraments. Blessed Mother serves as a model for us in always pondering first before reacting to the events of the day and trusting the direction that God was leading her even when it involved suffering.
Can you see yourself stepping out in faith in the midst of a storm and keeping your focus on Our Lord? As we continue in prayer and receive the Eucharist, what grace would you ask the Lord to help you?