19th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle A-2017

FIRST READING  1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.  Then the Lord said to him, “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.

SECOND READING        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.

GOSPEL       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.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Many of us think of God and strong and powerful—and God is that.  But God also shows Himself to be weak and poor and powerless.  Today’s readings show us this God who is so powerful that He can be weak and poor for our sake.

The first reading is from the First Book of Kings and is about the Prophet Elijah—one of the greatest of prophets.  There are so many accounts of the strength of this Prophet and yet he relies completely on God.  Today this Prophet has fled to the holy mountain, Horeb, which is probably the same as Mount Sinai.  This mountain is where the 10 commandments were given to Moses.  It is a place of encounter between God and His people.

When we think of the 10 commandments being given, we think of thunder and lightning and enormous displays of strength and might.  Today, in the same place, God manifests Himself in a tiny, whispering sound.  This is the God who can be all powerful and also be insignificant and weak—all because He loves us just as He loved the Prophet Elijah.

The second reading is from the Letter to the Romans.  Here Saint Paul is telling us how he would willingly give up everything for the sake of the salvation of his own people.  We are given powerful words:  “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.”

We are challenged to give our lives for our own people and for all peoples.  How much do we love?  How much do we care?  Has salvation become simply a private possession for me to have—and to ignore all others.  No, this cannot be.  We must be like Saint Paul and long for the salvation of all other peoples.

The Gospel from Matthew today is the wonderful account of Jesus walking on the water and then inviting Saint Peter—who said that he wanted this gift—so walk with him.  Saint Peter panics and lets fear get hold of him.  And he sinks.  “Do not be afraid.”  Pope Saint John Paul II often used those words to encourage others.  We also must learn not to be afraid.  Our faith will let us do amazing things.  The most amazing is simply believing.  From that faith, that belief, we are given strength for so many other things.  The most important is to love and to serve others with all our strength.  We must hear the words of Christ echo within us as we love and serve:  Do not be afraid.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip