CYCLE II: HOMILY FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: COURAGE, IT IS I!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: *1Kg 19 : 9 – 13, Rom 9 : 1 – 5, Matt 14 : 22 – 33.
A. BIBLICAL ANALYSIS
‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ The question came like a thunderbolt to the embattled man of God who was hiding in a cave. ‘Go out and stand on the Mountain’ was the next instruction. He could not continue like that. So he went to encounter God again in prayer. But this time around, Yahweh, his God, was not in a hurricane, earthquake, fire but in a light murmuring sound of a gentle wind. He was told to go and anoint Jehu as King of Israel and Elisha as Prophet to replace him.
This was a man who was already thinking he is alone.
Quarrels and war have an uncanny way of uncalming the nerves psychologically, disorganizing the cognitive faculties and ravaging the whole being of a man spiritually. At the middle of the fight between the man of God Elijah and the occult forces of idolatry in Israel led by Jezebel, God decided to take away Elijah in order not to allow the man of God to be defeated by his enemies or put God to shame. He came to a point where the noise of war and acrimony could no longer allow him hear the voice of God. Having seen the consuming fire of God, Heb 12 : 29, he needed to be shown the real nature of God which does not always operate in the hurricane, earthquake or fire but in a gentle breeze. Real faith is ‘deep calling upon deep’, Ps 42 : 7 not in the shallowness of our noisy prayer or what Fr Tony Akinwale calls the ‘dictatorship of superficiality’.
We are told in today’s gospel that after sending the crowds away, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. In the 4th watch of the night (around the time we normally go for morning mass), he came before them walking on the sea – ‘Ebube’ (glory). As they were afraid, he ministered the Word : ‘Courage, it is I. Do not be afraid’. Our greatest challenge in life is not avoiding the storms and troubles of life but the ability to walk on troubled waters without noticing the wind. As long as Peter kept his eyes fixed on Jesus, he continued to walk on the waters but as soon as he noticed the wind he took fright and began to sink. This is the importance of quiet prayer in the life of a believer. It keeps us away from the crowd and prevents us from ‘looking at the wind’ so that we can walk upon the troubled waters of our lives. The ministration of courage to Peter was the highest grace he needed to be the leader of the infant but embattled Church of the apostolic period.
* Confer story of the persecutions of the early Church under Emperor Nero.
Believers must be guided by faith in Jesus and not by sight, 2 Cor 5 : 7. They don’t have to look at the wind. They are not frightened by the bludgeoning forces of natural challenges like persecutions, sicknesses, financial crises, etc but keep looking at Jesus.
The boat riding on the stormy waves is a traditional image of the Church (people of God) in the face of domestic challenges like the pains of marriage /celibacy, stormy love relationships, stormy academic carrier, stormy business situation, stormy health condition, stormy spiritual life full of habitual sins, etc. The Lord does 3 kinds of miracles here ; physical (provision of food or wealth), psychological (provision of consolation or healing) and spiritual (the miracle of providing the grace of holiness).
In a world that is bedeviled by the ravaging storms of immorality, abortion, nudity /pornography the Church is still struggling to preach chastity and celibate priesthood. In a world that is harangued by the threatening forces of war and terrorism, the Church is still preaching pacifism /love for peace and tolerance. In a world that is besieged by bribery and corruption, the Church is still preaching detachment from love of money and the value of honesty.
Faith is like a purse. It doesn’t manufacture money nor protect it. It only holds it for you when you receive the gift from Christ (grace). We are more efficient in facing life’s challenges when we are calm than when we are tensed up. Faith in Jesus is a very big dossier for psychotherapy and counseling. A lot of things go wrong in a man’s life whenever he /she stops praying. We must learn from Peter’s experience in today’s gospel to keep looking at Jesus. He is bigger than our problems.
We must learn to always send our own crowds away or at best, send ourselves away from the crowd. In this era of handsets and earphones, our inner space is being hijacked by external forces so much so that unless we learn to sometimes switch off from all forms of noise, we face the danger of remaining spiritually shallow.
Happy Sunday dear friends!