Almighty ever-living God, Whom, taught by the Holy Spirit, we dare to call Our Father, bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as Your sons and daughters, that we may merit to enter into the inheritance which You have promised... collect for the 19th Sunday
First Reading: 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a Responsorial: Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14 Second Reading: Romans 9:1-5 Gospel Passage: Matthew 14:22-23
Words for Long Island by Msgr. Richard Henning
The first reading comes from the First Book of Kings and is taken from the chapters that describe the travels of Elijah the Prophet. At this point in the story, Elijah has fled for his life from the land of Israel into the southern deserts. His movement calls to mind the experience of Israel in the Exodus as Elijah walks for forty days to the very mountain where Moses encountered the Lord. Elijah is bitter that he has been zealous for the Lord while the people have forsaken the covenant. In fleeing, Elijah has abandoned his task of prophecy. In this context, the Lord reveals himself to Elijah in a unique manner. First Kings tells us that God did not appear in any of the traditional ways recounted in the Scriptures. The Lord was not in the earthquake or the fire. Instead, the Lord passes in a tiny whispering sound. Elijah recognizes the Lord and covers his face just as Moses did in the presence of the Lord.
On our beautiful island, the pace of life, the crowded roads, and the levels of noise can test anyone’s patience. Even within our homes, we live with constant news, information, and entertainment. The story of Elijah’s encounter with the Lord reminds us of the importance of quiet and silence if we wish to perceive the presence of God. It certainly is a challenge for us to find quiet in our lives. But it is not impossible and it is essential for our spiritual lives.
In the second reading, Paul offers heart-breaking testimony about his love for his own Jewish people. Paul experiences great sorrow because many of his fellow Jews do not share his faith in Christ. Their heritage of faith is so rich- they are the very source of the Christ. Paul mourns that he cannot convince them. His feeling runs so deep that he would even suffer being cut off from Christ if it would bring his people to Christ.
On this island, we have the privilege of living side-by-side with our many Jewish neighbors. We also know the anguish of separation as we recall a long and painful history in which Christians twisted the faith to justify the persecution of our Jewish brothers and sisters. Paul’s passionate love for the Jewish people gives us good example as we strive to create memories of harmony and peace between Christians and Jews.
In the passage from the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples are on the Sea of Galilee in a storm tossed boat. They react with fear when they see Jesus walking toward them on the sea. In one sense, their fear is appropriate- they are encountering the divine. As the disciples struggle to understand Jesus’ identity, Peter steps to the fore by asking the Lord to command him to walk upon the water. This momentary insight fails, however, when Peter hesitates in the face of the wind and waves. Jesus’ question to him: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” is only a partial rebuke. It is also an affirmation- a little faith is more than no faith. At the end of the passage, all of the disciples take a step forward by recognizing Jesus as the Son of God. This is not the last word in their development. They will go on to misunderstand again and even fail the Lord at the Passion, but we can see here the roots of their later courage in proclaiming the Risen Lord to the Nations.
As island dwellers we are familiar with the kind of setting we encounter in this passage. We know the shore and the waters. Perhaps we have experienced the presence of the Lord in contemplating their beauty. We are also familiar with the power of the sea. We can understand the fear in that boat and see the metaphor for our own lives. How often do the difficulties of life rock our boat or leave us feeling as if we are sinking into the waves? Can we also perceive the Lord there in the midst of stormy waters and know that even a little faith will suffice for him to lift us up?