August 10, 2014 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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The generosity and kindness of God is an unexpected surprise to many who have resigned themselves to going through the motions in their faith. This Sunday’s readings invite us to get back to the basics of spirituality, and that is in recognizing our Lord as Savior. The Psalm response for us this Sunday is: “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” I think it is imperative for us to be reminded of God’s goodness, because we often fail and worry that our falling short will necessarily dissuade God from assisting us. We see this countered in the Gospel this weekend, which is a familiar one that calls to mind Jesus walking on the water amidst the storm. We read that the disciples are afraid because they see something supernatural- a ghost. While their fishing and nautical skills would have enabled them to deal well with the unexpected realities of life on a boat, nothing they had experienced would have prepared them for a confrontation with a supernatural being. Just before this written account, Matthew’s Gospel gives the story of the feeding of the five thousand. I think the key phrase in our Gospel reading is when Peter asks: “Lord if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water.” I’ve often thought my statement to the ethereal being would be a bit different: “Lord, if it’s you, get in the boat and quit freaking us out.”

Most of us are familiar with the Gospel story. Jesus walks on the water and meets up with the disciples who are battling the elements of the storm. We know that it is Jesus, and eventually the disciples realize this after Peter gets out of the boat and miraculously stays afloat. What an amazing moment of heroic faith, and yet we know that he takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins >to sink into the storm tossed waves. He fails and takes notice of the storm around him. Peter cries out, “Lord save me,” and Jesus not only reaches down to do so, but he also asks Peter a simple question, “why did you doubt?” I often think that Peter does what most of us fail to do. He asks for a savior. I think there are many times we fail and are too ashamed to ask God to rescue us again. We can trust him in our storm. When Peter, and really all of us, see the kindness of our Lord even in our storms and mistakes, we can truly see salvation in action within our lives.

The first reading is another very famous passage where we hear of Elijah hiding in a cave. He needs a word from God, a saving act, and we note that he eventually hears the voice of God, not in the wind nor in an earthquake, but in a still small voice. Elijah needs the Lord’s salvific work in his life and the Lord comes in a way that Elijah isn’t expecting. This is something we are seeing in the Gospel passage; the Lord coming in a way that is unexpected.

Salvation is something that we easily attribute to the work of God, but often he works in mysterious ways. While this seems to be a cliche, Jesus comes to the disciples in their time of need in a way that they are not accustomed to. God speaks and works in Elijah’s life in a way that he doesn’t expect, and in both cases he is their true salvation. When St. Paul speaks about his fellow Jews, he says something so intense – that he would wish himself accursed for the sake of their salvation.

This Sunday, you have been invited to see Christ Jesus’ salvation amidst your storm. It may be that you have seen him work in various ways, heard him in a number of obvious situations, but things seem a bit muffled as of late. The encouragement we can receive is that Jesus will never leave us without his aid, but he speaks and is present to us in the way that matters most. I wonder if you can trust the Lord’s presence in your storm, knowing that he doesn’t always come to us in the same way, nor in a manner that is loud and boisterous. There is peace in the Lord’s presence, and this is always enough.

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