Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Aug 13, 2017 Views 182 Listen 21 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the first Book of Kings (19:9a, 11-13a)

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the Lord said, "Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by." A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord - but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake - but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire - but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14)


(R) Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

I will hear what God proclaims; the Lord - for He proclaims peace. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him, glory dwelling in our land. (R)

Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the Earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. (R)

The Lord himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before Him, and prepare the way of His steps. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (9:1-5)

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant 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; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (14:22-33)

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, "Truly, you are the Son of God."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

Our Lord Jesus walking on water is one of the well-known Biblical accounts. It is recounted in three of the four gospels, in Mark (6:45-52), John (6:16-21) and Matthew (14:22-33), but surprisingly only Matthew includes the account of Peter walking on the water. We do not know why there is this difference in these accounts of the same event. We can leave aside the differences because this account is more about Jesus than Peter. This is an account about faith in our Lord Jesus. This is an event that you either believe, or you don't. This is an account about a God who does not abandon those who truly follow and believe in Him.

Matthew writes, "After Jesus had fed the people, He made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone", Matthew (14:22-23). It is clear from these verses that Jesus wanted to be alone. Therefore, He intentionally sent his disciples in a boat to the other side of the Sea, and later after dismissing the crowd, he, as he often did, slipped away to the mountains and wilderness for solitude and prayer. He could have had the disciples wait for Him until He returned from the mountain but He did not. Instead He sent them directly into the middle of a rough sea or storm and moreover, He did not come to rescue them right away. One might well wonder why.

Right before Jesus walked on the water, He had performed one of the greatest miracles in his earthly ministry. He had fed more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and demonstrated his power to sustain both physical and spiritual life. However, we learn from the Scriptures while the disciples still didn't completely understand Jesus, others sought to make him a king so that he could satisfy their physical hunger forever. Therefore, the most likely reason for sending his disciples away was that Jesus had an important lesson for them to learn, and they could only learn it by their not seeing him physically present with them. In other words, Jesus put them in a situation in which he could once again display His love and mercy and, at the same time, teach them to trust in His power and authority over all creation and, worship Him.

Matthew says, "The boat, while a few miles offshore, was already being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea", Matthew (14:25). Being fishermen, the disciples would have known the sea was dangerous and the storm terrible. In spite of or because of the dangerous circumstances, they were perhaps rowing frantically against the ferocious winds, clinging to the hope that they would make it to shore safely. As they were in fear of losing their lives at sea - always a possibility in such a storm - and the arduous, painful task of rowing to safety, they were suddenly shocked to see a figure of a man walking on the water toward them. The sight was remarkable and sufficient to make them struck in awe. They were terrified and troubled. Perhaps because it was still dark and, there was not much light to help them make out what, or who it was; moreover, it did not occur to them that it could be Jesus. In surprise and fear they cried out, "It is a ghost!"

It was a common belief at that time, and even today, in some parts of the world, the spirits of people after death, frequently appear to the living. So, naturally the disciples were afraid and thought they were seeing a ghost. But the "ghost" was none other than their Master, Jesus. He had not been with them on the boat, yet He loved them and cared for them, and did not want to leave them to themselves to face the terrible storm. In the midst of the serious situation, He appeared and comforted them with the assurance that He was not a ghost nor was it a nightmare or a vision but it was really him. Immediately, Peter wanted to go to where Jesus was - even if that meant walking on the water in order to get to Him. He said to Jesus, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." Here, Peter was unsure of the stranger's identity. And yet he probably thought there was only one way to be certain that it was Jesus; and that was by walking on water to Him at His command.

Peter, a fisherman, might have spent a lot of time in boats out at sea; he might have known the depth of the sea. And yet he made this outrageous request to Jesus. The Lord said, "Come", and Peter got out of the boat and started to walk on the water toward Jesus. But in a moment of panic, he began to sink, and called out to Jesus to save him. The Lord immediately reached out and saved Peter and, rebuked him, not for making the request but for his lack of faith. As soon as Peter took his eyes off Jesus for a while, to look at the wind and the waves, he became afraid and immediately began to sink. But Jesus never took his eyes off Peter so that at once he could grab Peter and keep him from drowning. After He had saved them, especially Peter, they did Him homage saying that Jesus is "truly the Son of God".

What is the message for us?

  • Jesus often sends us into the storms of life or allows storms in our lives to get our attention, to test our faith, to shape our attitude to life, and to teach us just how much we really need Him. Yes, sometimes the kindest thing that God can do in our lives is to allow us to suffer in situations so that we can see him for who he really is. Sometimes He is restraining himself from delivering us from a certain situation because he ultimately cares more about doing something in us than for us. And He chooses to work in our lives because He loves us, and He wants to do what is best for us.
  • Jesus sends us into the storms to show us his faithfulness. He loves us, and perfectly understands our struggles and cares deeply for us in our storms, and He will never abandon us. As Saint Paul so aptly says, "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself", 2 Timothy (2:13). So, when we are in trouble and facing a difficult situation; when things look the bleakest, we can, and we need to just look around for Jesus to show up. And when He does appear we must rightly look unto Him; we are not to look at anything else. No matter what storm we face, if we strive do our best while keeping our eyes on Him, He will see us through.
  • It is not the strength of our faith but the object of our faith - our Lord Jesus Christ - that actually saves us. Our faith in Christ is much more than having ritual faith. True and lasting faith is not we trust in something but rather whether or not something actually has the ability to save us. Paul reminds us "...if Christ has not been raised our faith gives us nothing", 1 Corinthians (15:17). That's so to say, if Jesus didn't raise from the dead our faith is useless. So, like Peter, when we get distracted and start to sink, we can courageously call out to Jesus who has the power to save us and keep us.
  • Ultimately, our Lord Jesus puts us in difficult situations so that we may truly worship Him. Worship is the acknowledging, recognizing, and praising who He is to us. When we worship Him, we are doing what we need to do. He is more concerned about our worship than our situation.

He loves us, and is constantly at work in our life trying to reveal more of Himself to us so that we can learn to trust Him and, worship Him, not merely in a civil, but in a religious way; being convinced, by what we see, that He must be truly God, and worthy of adoration.

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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