Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 19:9-13 Romans 9:1-5 Matthew 14:22-33
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle August 13, 2023
It has recently occurred to me how often I listen to the weather on television. However, what I see and hear does not directly affect me; it's affecting other people. The wildfires in Hawaii, tornados in the Midwest, hurricanes and flooding, these events surely must cause great fear, even the thought of impending death, to those who experience them. It is not severe weather that is our problem, it is the storms that directly affect our personal life that cause us concern. We all may be frightened during a storm, however, when the storm passes it takes its terror with it. Most often, when the storm is over, a sense of satisfaction takes place in our life, and we say things like: "That was quite a storm we had last night."
In today's Gospel, we are told that the disciples experienced a storm that lasted all night long, and they were terrified. It was not until early morning, when the storm was over, that their fears ended. However, there are storms in our life that both shock and steal and seem unending. We did not quite expect their severity, or the impact they would have upon our life. Our old tree is uprooted, the roof is ripped off our house, our home is flooded, and nothing but a wasteland remains. If the Gospels were only concerned about the weather, their significance would be limited. Few people have their lives permanently reduced to rubble by the weather. And, even those who do, typically resolve to rebuild, and recover. In this Gospel story, Saint Matthew is speaking of storms as a symbol. Storms are events that terrify us; they set us apart from others and shake all sense of security from our life.
Of course, we pray during storms, and I know of no one who does not. “Lord, you can’t take all this away from me. Not yet.” Sweet Jesus. This will end the way I live my life. Surely this can’t be your will.” “Yes, I need to end this marriage, but Good Lord, do you think I can walk off a cliff, do you think I can walk on water?” Then the storm ends, the terror goes away, and a welcomed sense of security returns. Our prayers were answered. But what about those storms that leave only a wasteland in their wake? The one who was the most important person in your life is gone. Your way of life has ended, there is no way out, and no one to help.
There is a Gospel answer to such questions, but not always one we like to hear. Jesus could calm the fury of nature, yet he allowed the fury of women and men. Jesus dies, broken, with nothing left, “it is finished,” he cries, “into your hands, I commend my spirit,” and then he dies. Can we do the same, accept the devastation of life, and look to heaven? For Christians, acceptance means clinging to the cross, for the cross is something we intended for others and not for ourselves. We must cling to the cross, because we did not choose to take our stand with Jesus. No, Jesus chose to stand with us. His cross is the staff thrown into the water for us to grab hold of, our only choice to survive is by clinging. Sinking, Peter cries out, “Lord save me!” So, when all is lost, we should realize that all of this has been a gift, what came to us from God must return to God. And, like all who have gone before us, we too must cry out, "Lord, save me!"