Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 10, 2008; Year: A
1 Kgs 19:9, 11-13; Rom. 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33
Oh, Man of little faith

First Reading...
"When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God, he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'Go out and stand on the mountain before the lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.'

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave." [1 Kgs. 19:9, 11- 13] 

Second Reading...
"I am speaking the truth in Christ. I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God be blessed forever. Amen." [Rom. 9:1-5]

Gospel Reading...
"Immediately after feeding the crowd with the five loaves and two fish, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.

When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

And early in the morning Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, 'It is a ghost!' And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, 'Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.'

Peter answered him, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' Jesus said, 'Come.' So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?' When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'" [Mt. 14:22-33]

Commitment
Robin and Wilma loved one another. They decided to marry. Kids were born. Wilma gave up working because she had to take care of kids. As months and years passed the stress of life and distance between Robin and Wilma due to work resulted a strain in their relationship and commitment. Both of them began blaming themselves. Then they started blaming one another and finally they blamed God. As the kids were growing, unhappiness became visible among the family members. Wilma stopped communicating with Robin, Robin began sinking in alcoholism. Wilma began sinking in depression and doubt against Robin. Children began sinking in irresponsible behaviour and addicted to bad friendships, smoking, and frustration.  

Well, life is a blend of commitment, faith, patience, love, forgiveness and understanding. This blend can take a family a long way in spite of all the uncertainties and sufferings. But doubt can really sink us as it sank Peter, unless we call upon the Lord to help us we would drown all together in the ocean of insecurity and pain.  

Just look at Peter. Over enthusiastic, and wants to walk towards the Lord on water. At the Lord’s word he jumps. Then he begins to doubt himself, “can I do it”? Then he looks at the deep sea, and doubts the environment, finally he might have doubted the Lord. Well, then comes the helpless cry, “Lord save me”. 

ANALYSIS OF THE VERSES FOR HOMILY

Verse 22: Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a boat

Either they were afraid to return into the jurisdiction of Herod, or they were unwilling to embark without their Lord and Protector, and would not enter their boat till Christ had commanded them to embark.

From this verse it appears that Christ gave some advices to the multitudes after the departure of his disciples, which he did not wish them to hear.

Unto the other side

Towards Capernaum, Matthew 14:34. John 6:16,17, or Bethsaida, see  Mark 6:45.

Verse 23: He went up into a mountain apart, to pray

He whom God has employed in a work of mercy had need to return, by prayer, as speedily, to his maker, as he can, lest he should be tempted to value himself on account of that in which he has no merit-for the good that is done upon earth, the Lord does it alone. Some make this part of our Lord's conduct emblematic of the spirit and practice of prayer, and observe that the proper dispositions and circumstances for praying well are:

1. Retirement from the world.2. Elevation of the heart to God.3. Solitude. 4. The silence and quiet of the night.

It is certain that in this also Christ has left us an example that we should follow his steps. Retirement from the world is often a means of animating, supporting, and spiritualizing prayer. Other society should be shut out, when a soul comes to converse with God.

Verse 24: Tossed with waves

Grievously agitated. This is the proper meaning of the word plunged under the waves, frequently covered with them; the waves often breaking over the vessel.

Verse 25: The fourth watch

Anciently the Jews divided the night into three watches, consisting of four hours each. The first watch is mentioned, Lamentations 2:19: the second, Judges 7:19; and the third, Exodus 14:24; but a fourth watch is not mentioned in any part of the OLD Testament. This division the Romans had introduced in Judea, as also the custom of dividing the day into twelve hours: see John 11:9. The first watch began at six o'clock in the evening, and continued till nine; the second began at nine, and continued till twelve; the third began at twelve, and continued till three next morning; and the fourth began at three, and continued till six. It was therefore between the hours of three and six in the morning that Jesus made his appearance to his disciples.

Walking on the sea:

Thus suspending the laws of gravitation was a proper manifestation of unlimited power. Jesus did this by his own power; therefore Jesus showed forth his Godhead. In this one miracle we may discover three:-1. Though at a distance from his disciples, he knew their distress. 2. He found them out on the lake, and probably in the midst of darkness. 3. He walked upon the water. Job, speaking of those things whereby the omnipotence of God was demonstrated, says particularly, Job 9:8, He walks upon the waves of the sea: intimating that this was impossible to any thing but Omnipotence.

Verse 26: It is a spirit

That the spirits of the dead might and did appear, was a doctrine held by the greatest and holiest of men that ever existed; and a doctrine which the cavaliers, free-thinkers and bound-thinkers, of different ages, have never been able to disprove.

Verse 27: It is I; be not afraid

Nothing but this voice of Christ could, in such circumstances, have given courage and comfort to his disciples: those who are grievously tossed with difficulties and temptations require a similar manifestation of his power and goodness. When he proclaims himself in the soul, all sorrow, and fear, and sin are at an end.

Verse 28: Bid me come unto thee on the water.

A weak faith is always wishing for signs and miracles. To take Christ at his word, argues not only the perfection of faith, but also the highest exercise of sound reason. He is to be credited on his own word, because he is the TRUTH, and therefore can neither lie nor deceive.

Verse 29: Peter-walked on the water

However impossible the thing commanded by Christ may appear, it is certain he will give power to accomplish it to those who receive his word by faith; but we must take care never to put Christ's power to the proof for the gratification of a vain curiosity; or even for the strengthening of our faith, when the ordinary means for doing that are within our reach.

Verse 30: When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid

It was by faith in the power of Christ he was upheld; when that faith failed, by which the laws of gravitation were suspended, no wonder that those laws returned to their usual action, and that he began to sink. It was not the violence of the winds, nor the raging of the waves, which endangered his life, but his littleness of faith.

Verse 31: Jesus stretched forth his hand

Every moment we stand in need of Christ: while we stand-we are upheld by his power only; and when we are falling, or have fallen, we can be saved only by his mercy. Let us always take care that we do not consider so much the danger to which we are exposed, as the power of Christ by which we are to be upheld; and then our mountain is likely to stand strong.

Verse 32: The wind ceased.

Jesus is the Prince of peace, and all is peace and calm where he condescends to enter and abide.

Verse 33: Thou art the Son of God.

It is probable that these words were spoken either by the sailors or passengers, and not by the disciples. Critics have remarked that, when this phrase is used to denominate the MESSIAH, both the articles are used, and that the words without the articles mean, in the common Jewish phrase, a Divine person. It would have been a strange thing indeed, if the disciples, after all the miracles they had seen Jesus work-after their having left all to follow him, Messiah. That they had not as yet clear conceptions concerning his kingdom, is evident enough; but that they had any doubts concerning his being the promised Messiah is far from being clear.

Now prepare a great homily.

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