12 and 13 August 2017 Nineteenth Sunday Ordinary Time A Homily
First Kings 19:9,11-13
My sisters and brothers in Christ.
Today we are treated to a plethora of “findings” of the divine presence.
Elijah, the prophet, is a man on the run. He has crossed Jezebel, Ahab’s wife. He flees for his life and ends up on Mount Horeb. Horeb was also called Mount Sinai where Moses had “encountered” the LORD on many occasions.
Elijah is hiding in a cave and is told by the LORD:
“Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by.”
There was a great wind and an earthquake…but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
Then there was a fire- but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was “a light, silent sound”.
The wind, storms, earthquakes and fires may accompany the LORD “passing by” but the LORD’S presence with Elijah is mysterious like: “a light, silent sound”. (In the Spanish translation: like a soft murmur).
Paul finds it ironic, in the Second Reading that “his own people” his “kindred according to the flesh” have not accepted Christ.
Paul remarks that the Israelites had everything going for them “adoption by the LORD, covenants, the LORD’S glory, the law, the promises. They even had the Christ born to them in their own flesh. Still they did not accept the divine presence in Jesús who was of the Israelite tribe of David.
The Gospel speaks about the divine presence of the LORD in Jesús. The divine presence is found not in a Temple, or Synagogue or Holy Shrine. The divine presence is found in a storm in a lake. Jesús is recognized “walking over the water” and offered “homage” by a small congregation riding in a boat.
To set the scene from Matthew’s Gospel:
Jesús has just heard of the death of John the Baptizer.
Jesús next went off to pray.
Then Jesús fed “five thousand men, not counting the women and children”. Jesús does this “feeding” with “five loaves and two fish.”
Jesús then, puts the disciples in a boat and again Jesús goes off to pray.
I would like to share three vignettes about water, two near drownings, and a boat ride.
Transparency Alert: I could not make up these yarns (as my Irish cousins call them) if I tried.
# 1. I remember, after our family moved from New York to Tulsa, going to a lake since there was no ocean. I remember my oldest brother going into the lake and not coming out. I remember my mother who was very pregnant lying on a rock and reaching down to pull my brother from the lake. My father, who could swim, had jumped into the Lake and “saved” my older brother. My mother sent us all to the local pool for swimming classes as soon as she could manage that.
#2. Father Mike Hanrahan, who was one of my predecessors here at Saint Patrick’s asked me to be a Camp Counsellor at a Summer Camp. He did not tell me I would be, at age 16, the head of the Camp when he went to his Parish and Missions on the Weekends. I as only a year or two older than some of the “campers”.
Early on we took all the campers to go swimming in the lake. One of the kids, ran onto the dock, ran to the end and jumped into the lake.
(You might guess this was not a very well organized project.)
The wee lad came back up but realized the water was deeper than he was tall. I jumped in and pulled him out and told him to take his time going into any body of water, including a bath tub. “Get the lay of the land”, one of my mentors still says to me.
#3. Fast forward a decade or two. I am the Chaplain at Mount Saint Mary’s High School and Convent. The thirty Sisters treat me like their little or younger or favorite brother depending on their age. I owned a boat because water skiing was for me a great source of fun in the sun. The Sisters and I go down to Lake Texoma for a weekend. We decide, the first afternoon to go for a ride on the boat.
Six or seven us pile into the boat. We go out. It is still Spring and the sun goes down early.. It gets very cool and very dark. I do not know how full the fuel tank is. I do not know exactly how to get back to the “inlet” we launched from. This is long before cell phones.
Flashlights were available but we probably did not think to bring any.
God takes care of fools and idiots and we find our way back to where “we put in” and the Cabin and our companions. I was the only one who knew how lost we were. I think there was not much more that a pint or so of gasoline left in the tank.
So, I can identify with Peter.
I believe anyone who has water skied has a clue about what it is like to walk or “skim” over the water.
Peter was fearless until he realized how really risky and dangerous this “walking over the water” feat is.
Think for a moment when something serious and life changing has happened to you. You can lose your health, your security, the love of your life. You can be tossed about by winds, by earthquakes caused by fracking, by depression, by bad luck, or by greed,
The only good that can come from these storms, struggles, failings, occasions of falling down is when we realize we are “truly” lost.
When we are desperate and without good alternatives we realize our need for others, for the Other, for the LORD.
The Jesús /Disciples Dialogue is fascinating today.
Loss, fear, death lead to the Disciples discovering what and who was there or “present” in plain sight “walking over the water” and “in the boat”.The Disciples: “It is a ghost.” They cried out in fear.
Jesús: “Take courage, It is I: do not be afraid.”
Peter: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Peter: “Lord save me!”
Jesús: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The Disciples: “Truly you are the Son of God.”
My sisters and brothers,
Let us “Come”.
Let us ask to be “Saved”
Let us believe, “Truly Jesús is the Son of God.”