Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday, year A.
A week ago in our gospel passage, we read about the mountaintop experience, how the apostles saw the glory of God on the mountaintop. And today in our first reading, we see another kind of mountaintop experience.
The prophet Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, but when queen Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, he ran away into the caves of mount Horeb. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. In obedience Elijah stood there, and there came a strong wind but the Lord was not in it. The strong wind was followed by earthquake and fire, he did not find the Lord in them. Then, there was the sound of a gentle breeze, and in it the prophet felt the presence of the Lord and covered his face with his cloak.
Elijah did not find the Lord in the strong wind, earthquake and fire, yet, it was in these elements that Moses found God on the same mountain. God is mysterious in his presence, he cannot be localized, he was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. For the apostles in our gospel passage this morning, he was a ghost.
Jesus had just fed a multitude of people with five loaves and two fish, and at the end he made his disciples get into the boat alone to go to the other side of the lake. When they had gone far out on the lake and was dark, they experienced a headwind; a terrifying one. They battled with the heavy wind to keep the boat focused, and in their struggle they saw the Lord coming, walking on the water. They confused him for a ghost, they were terrified. But Jesus called out to them, saying, Courage! It is I, do not be afraid. Then, Peter answered; if you are the one, tell me to come, to walk on the water like you. He was asked to come, he walked on the water like Jesus, but when he felt the force of the wind he became afraid and began to sink. He cried out to the Lord for help, and he was helped.
The apostles were in the boat, on their way to the other side. They did not know what awaited them just as we do not know what awaites us. We too are on our way to the other side, we do not know exactly what to expect. The journey to the other side at some point can be smooth and enjoyable. The apostles did not begin the journey with the heavy wind, they only experienced it when they had gone far. For many today, the trouble may be from the very beginning, for others it may be at the end. But whether the heavy wind of life begins at the beginning of the journey, middle or end, we must learn to emulate the apostles of Jesus Christ. They did not give up, they battled with the wind, they did not surrender to the power of the wind.
In our journey through life we sometimes face this heavy wind in different forms, and sometimes we are tempted to abandon the boat. We abandon the boat the moment we begin to question the reality and power of God, we abandon the boat the moment we turn to other gods for power and solution to problems of life. There is no doubt that we are passing through difficult moments as a nation, the economic recession is biting hard, armed robbery and kidnapping is making everybody lose sleep, and people are becoming homeless and no food to eat. These are all forms of strong wind to struggle against. But just as Jesus walked on the troubled water to step into the apostles’ boat, so also he can walk on our troubled situations to step into our boats. He is mysteriously present, his presence is everywhere. Let us learn to trust God in good and in bad times and not be afraid. Fear can paralize our faith; it made Elijah the great prophet to run from Jezebel and it almost made Peter drown. Fear not! says the Lord, it is I.
As we celebrate this Sunday, let us call on the Lord for help as Peter did, and like the psalmist let us say, “Let us see, O Lord, your mercy and give us your saving help.”