13 August 201719 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
19 Ordinary Time
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - A Cycle - Matthew 14:22-27

A teacher shared today's Gospel of Christ calming the storm with her nursery class in England. School was finished. There was a blizzard outside. The teacher tried to get the youngsters to their homes. As she struggled through the snow, she heard a boy say to his buddy, "We could use that chap Jesus right now." (William Barclay) Jesus has just fed 15,000 with WONDER bread and rainbow trout. They want to make Him president and insure free daily catered meals. This retired priest advises it beats standing over a stove. He turns thumbs down on the job offer. Jesus nixed the proposal to move into the Jewish Oval Office. Yet, the apostles thought it sensible.

The problem with revolutionaries is not that they want to burn palaces. Rather, they want to move into them. (Wilfrid Sheed) They wanted Christ to become Top Man. They would ride with Him in stretch limousines and have cell phones. There would be no more sleeping on the hard ground but in five star hotel beds with Swedish mattresses. They would cease eating junk food and take their meals in gourmet restaurants. Their Dom Perignon champagne days would have begun and not a day too soon. The only time Jesus met with politicians, His hands were tied and His back clotted with blood. (Philip Yancey) The Nazarene picked off their naked greed and wanted to scotch it and not with Chivas Regal.

He ordered His people to break camp and go to the other side of the lake. He would disperse the 15,000 and spend the night in prayer in the mountains. He needed to touch base with His Father. He enjoyed solitude. But how little He found! How He must have longed for the laid back days of Nazareth. But the last year of His life had begun. It would be all downhill. It was time to get His house in order. The twelve balked. They were too close to winning the Lotto. Jesus had to twist their arms to make them leave. But they still delayed at the shore.

They were hoping He would change His mind and accept the presidency. They could envision Peter as vice-president, Judas as treasury secretary, young John as secretary of state, etc. Finally they pushed their large boat into the waters. They set sail for the western shore, which was 7.5 miles away. Hurricane winds came out of the north from the Golan Heights. Fishermen today will tell you with alarm they still do. What should have been a tranquil journey became a roller coaster ride. They were terrified. Instead of eating lobster, they would be eaten by lobsters.

They were saying with that Brit boy but more intemperately, "We could be using that chap Jesus right now." Up on the mountain, Jesus saw that His followers were about to become unwilling guests in Davy Jones locker. He forgot His problems. To His Father, He said, "Excuse me, Abba. This is action time." This Gospel catches the very essence of Jesus. Human needs surpass all other claims, even prayer, every time out. He has responded to the wishes of people for twenty-one centuries through His followers. He has no intention of stopping today unless of course we have.

As He walked across the wild waters, He spoke the spine-chilling line, "Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid." Our Leader told us an astounding seventeen times in the Gospels not to be afraid. Notice today it is not advice. It is a command. Jesus came on board. We know how the story ends. The apostles were in sheer shock. Job (8:9) had taught them, "Only God walks on water." Had there been a trauma unit about, the apostles would be patients. The day had been saved by the Master once again. Despite Christ's command, many are troubled by conditions in the Church. Scandals afflict us. We hear of pedophilia among priests.

The faith of our Christian company plummets like the stock market on a bearish day. But this Gospel reminds us the Church has found itself in hurricane seas from day one. When we find ourselves breaking into a cold sweat over the latest scandal, we should remember those lyrical words of our Lord, "Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid." He will come to us walking on the waters. All we have to do is allow Him into our boat. It is an historical fact, proved by countless thousands in every generation that when Christ comes, the storm becomes a calm, the tumult becomes a peace, and we pass the breaking point and we do not break. (Unknown) Incidentally, next time you feel perfect, try walking on water.
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
19 Ordinary Time
Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Trust Demands Courage

Today's Gospel presents a miracle that we moderns see as scientifically amazing. Jesus, a man, walks on water. Humans can't do this.

When we hear the response of the disciples, "You are certainly the Son of God," we assume that the disciples were amazed at this physical proof that Jesus was more than just a man. However, to the ancients of New Testament times, the miracle was greater than the overcoming of scientific laws. To them the seas and lakes stood for chaos. They were afraid of water. They believed that the seas and lakes contained turmoil that only God could control. They remembered that in the creation account in Genesis, God demonstrated his power by separating the seas and allowing the firmament to form. Only God could control the mighty power of the oceans.

The Romans and Greeks, the most powerful nations the world had ever seen, joined the fear of the rest of the world and would never sail too far out of sight of land. They would rather hug the coast than sail across the Mediterranean. That is one of the reasons why it took two years for the Romans to take our patron, Ignatius, from Antioch to Rome. The sea was terrifying. It contained monsters like sharks and whales. It could be calm one moment and fierce the next. No one would challenge the water. Jesus walked on the water. He was divine.

He did that which only God could do. He tamed the waters. He beckoned Peter to join him. And Peter walked on water. He was given the power of God to be greater than the sea. Peter walked on water. But he was not doing this under his own power. He was relying on the power of Jesus who was calling him to join him onto the sea. All was going well for Peter, but then he lost his focus on Christ. He began to be more concerned with his ability to conquer the turmoil than with his response to the Lord who called him to come to him. Peter sank. Jesus saved him, and commented on the weakness of Peter's faith. Peter began his aquatic adventure trusting in God. Then he began to trust in himself more than God.

Before he knew it, he was drowning. He needed Jesus to reach out his hand and save him. Sometimes our lives are so full of chaos and turmoil that we feel as though we are trying to walk on a terrible, turbulent ocean. School, work, finances, relationships, sickness, all add to our stress. We wonder how we are going to make it through it all. There are times we would just like to hide from everything. But we can't. We have to leave the boat and respond to Jesus' call to join him on the water. He conquers chaos and turmoil. We have to trust him.

A heroic example of this trust is seen in the life of the saint we celebrated last Wednesday, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, or as she is usually known, Edith Stein. Edith was a German Jew born in 1891. She was extremely intelligent and went on a quest for the Truth. She became a doctor of philosophy and taught at the University of Frieburg, a position rarely held by a woman in her day, and certainly never held by a woman who was also a Jew. Edith's quest for truth led her to the writings of St. Teresa of Avila. She realized that she had to leave her ancestral traditions, leave the safety of the boat, and walk out to Jesus.

She was baptized and taught at a school in Munster, Germany. Then the Nazis began rearing their head and enforcing anti Semitic laws. When she was forced to quit her teaching position, she felt the time was right for her to enter into a deeper union with the Lord. She became a Discalced Carmelite Nun in Cologne, Germany. By 1938, she realized that her presence in the convent in Cologne was putting the other nuns in jeopardy of being attacked by the Nazis for harboring Jews, so she and her sister, who had also become Catholic and joined the monastery, transferred to a convent in Echt, Netherlands. Four years later, in 1942, the Nazis raided the convent and sent the two nuns to what they said was a work camp in Poland for Jews. They sent them to Auschwitz. Edith died there 75 years ago Wednesday, August 9, 1942. Her life was one of total turst in the Lord. She walked to Him on the chaos of the sea, and was received by Him in the gas chamber of Auschwitz.

There are many examples of saints who gave their lives in heroic trust. There are also many examples of people who may not have attained heroic martyrdom, but who nevertheless live their faith in heroic trust. Many of you have done this. You have taken a sick relative or friend into your home. You knew that this would bring turmoil, even chaos to your already turbulent life, but you heard the Lord calling you out of the boat, and you have walked to him, walking over the chaos. Another example: A young man and woman take a step out of the security of their parents' home into the new life that they must form with each other. If they are wise, they realize that they cannot make a happy marriage alone.

They trust in the Lord and have Him in the center of their wedding and the marriage. Instead of a destination wedding outside of the Church, or a sunset wedding on a nice beach but without the sacramental presence of the Lord in the sacrament of matrimony, they get married in the Church and ask Christ to be the center of their new life. They walk over the water to Him who is calling them to be one with Him in marriage. Or a young married couple trusts God to direct them in a new adventure which will radically change their lives. They are going to have a baby. To others this might seem to be a normal, everyday occurrence, but for them it is an adventure. This new life will be totally dependent on them.

Every new mother and father ask themselves, can I do this? And they can, with God's help they can raise a new member of His Kingdom. But they have to trust God to direct him through the challenges of life the new life within them or in that cradle will occasion. Jobs change, new homes are sought in unknown places, the stability of the agrarian culture is remote history. At least three-quarters of our parish has changed in the 25 years that I have been pastor. People settle into the Tarpon Springs area determined to spend the rest of their lives here, but in just a few years their jobs demand that they move to Atlanta, New York, or wherever. There is turmoil, but Jesus is there, walking on the water of chaos, calling them to come to him and to trust in Him. And they do trust in the Lord.

And we also trust in Him and in His power. We pray and put everything into his hands. We have to let him hold us up. We have to realize that we cannot succeed in being good people, good children and teens, good parents, having a good marriage, good priests, etc, we cannot succeed alone, in ourselves. We need the Lord. With him we can walk on water. Even if we should falter, even if we should make mistakes, the Lord is still there for us, reaching out his hand, keeping us from being engulfed by chaos, smiling at our feeble attempts to trust in ourselves instead of Him, gently chiding us about our lack of faith.

There is nothing that life can throw at us that we cannot overcome with the Lord. Even death. Recently, I spoke with an elderly lady whose body was quitting on her. She told me that she was not afraid of dying because she has placed everything in God's hands. If and when she dies, she will die in his arms. He reaches to us and pulls us out of the turmoil, out of the chaos, out of the sea. Today we pray for the courage to trust in the Lord.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
19 Ordinary Time
Spiritual Warfare Week 8: Strategy of God & the Enemy
(August 13, 2017)

Message: The enemy's strategy is false self-reliance that leads to disunity and impotence. God's strategy is reliance on Jesus that brings unity and power. This summer we are talking about spiritual warfare. As we saw last week: even though its seems we are being overwhelmed, still we have a Father who keeps his promises. We can trust in the final outcome.

We saw that spiritual warfare does not involve constant conflict. There's a time to relax and regroup. Summer's a good time to think about strategy. God has a strategy and so does the enemy. We can see God's strategy in today's Gospel. He does allows storms, but he comes to us in the midst of them. Like Peter walking on the water, God sometimes enables us to do amazing things. However, when we start thinking, "Hey, look at me," God lets us sink. For sure he wants you always to do great things - even move mountains - but it requires faith, trust in Jesus. God allows one to sink. Why? so we will recognize the source of power.

That's God's strategy. The enemy has an opposite strategy. He gives the illusion of power, but ultimately he renders a person impotent. He does it by getting us to think we can do it on our own. Have you noticed that about sin? It gives a momentary exhilaration and then leads a person to say, look how great I am! A guy starts by taking advantage of others, but the enemy wants more. He wants the sinner to say, How clever I am! I'm a real Don Juan! You've probably heard that if a guy goes bald in the front, he's a great thinker. If he goes bald in the back, he's a great lover. If he goes bald front and back, he thinks he is a great lover! The enemy's strategy is to get a person to think how great, how clever he is.

The enemy is not content to simply get a person to stop going to Mass. He wants the guy to think he's making a bold, courageous choice. "At least I'm not like those hypocrites." Or even better, "I believe in science, not like those simpletons who believe in God." This is like saying: I don't believe in God, I believe in the periodic table! It's nonsense of course but the enemy keeps him distracted so he never reflects on the flaw in his thinking. Einstein never said, "I believe in science." Nor did Isaac Newton. He practiced science and believed in God. So did the majority of modern scientists. It surprises people to learn some priests made great scientific achievements. Try googling priest scientists.

You'll find a long list including spiritual fathers who are also known as "fathers" of geology, genetics and the Big Bang theory.* The enemy wants us to imagine a contradiction between practicing science and believing in God. It's not that the enemy loves science. He will use it for his own ends if we let him. His strategy is not to exalt science. No he wants you and me to exalt ourselves. To think I'm better than the other guy. Thus he creates a false self-reliance: I don't need other people and I don't need God.

When I was in high school, a guy a few years older said that in the morning he looks in the mirror and says, "Every day, in every way I keep getting better and better." He amused us, but it had a poignant outcome. A serious disease hit him and led to an early death. I don't know if he turned to God. I pray he did. In the Gospel Peter cries out, "Lord, save me." Jesus lifts him up but also rebukes him for his lack of faith. Not that Jesus want to humiliate us; he wants us to do great things by faith in him. We have a nice opportunity next Sunday.

We will have an outdoor bilingual Mass followed by our annual picnic. Why not invite friends, family and neighbors? It will be a celebration of unity in our parish and in our valley. Remember, the enemy's strategy is false self-reliance that leads to disunity and impotence. God's strategy is reliance on Jesus that brings unity and power. As Jesus says to his disciples, "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid." Amen. ************ *For sure I consider we need spiritual fathers more than anything else, but I also admire those who combined scientific research with their priestly vocation.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
19 Ordinary Time
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 14: 22-33

Gospel Summary
Bible scholars show us that Matthew organized the material of his gospel into five sections. This Sunday's passage is part of the fourth section (13:54-18:35) in which he explains the meaning of Jesus in relation to the church. This section, as well as the entire gospel, reaches its fulfillment when the Risen Lord commissions his disciples to make disciples of all nations. And with the mandate he makes a promise: "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:18-20).

In Matthew's inspired theology, the divine presence in human history unfolds in three stages: (1) God forms the people of Israel and remains with them in good times and bad; (2) in fulfillment of divine promise through the prophets, Jesus, Messiah and incarnate Son of God, is present among his people as their savior; (3) in these last days, the Risen Lord, through his disciples, is present to extend his saving mission beyond his particular historical time and land to all nations. The primary focus of Matthew's theology is to give us some insight into the meaning of the presence of the Risen Lord in the church by examining the meaning of the divine presence in the prior stages of our sacred history. In today's gospel passage, while his disciples depart in a boat, Jesus goes up on a mountain by himself to pray.

When a storm arises during the night, Jesus comes toward the boat walking on the water. The disciples are terrified. Jesus reassures them by his presence. Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water toward Jesus. Soon he becomes frightened and begins to sink. Jesus saves him and says: "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” The disciples in the boat exclaim: "Truly, you are the Son of God.” Life Implications The images Matthew uses are powerful in their direct simplicity—disciples in a boat, night, stormy waters. We can readily identify with the reality to which these images point both as church and as individuals.

The church in every age is threatened by the chaos of evil (the night) and the powers of death (the stormy waters). Matthew assures us with the good news that the Risen Lord with "all power in heaven and on earth” is present to save, just as Yahweh, with mastery over all the forces of nature, saved a slave-people from the powers of death in Egypt. Jesus' self-identification ("It is I”) of Matthew 14:27, just as the "I am” of Exodus 3:14, means "I am here to save you. Do not be afraid.” The one constant in the drama of the divine presence in history is the necessity of human response to the saving presence with total trust.

The disciples are like most of us -- we believe that the Lord is with us, but our trust is quite conditional. We tend to panic when a sudden storm arises in the middle of the night, and things get out of control. Like Peter we may start out with confidence, but soon we notice that the wind is really strong and the water is really deep. Our confidence turns to fear. Today's gospel assures us that Jesus also stretches out his hand to save us with those words that must have been spoken with affection: "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Another life implication emerges if we shift our focus from the disciples to Jesus. Matthew notes that before the episode on the stormy sea, Jesus had gone up on a mountain by himself to pray.

Jesus' humanity, through intimate communion of prayer with the Father, is completely transparent so that divine power flows through him to overcome the destructive powers of evil. As Christians we are not meant to be helpless victims when storms threaten to destroy us. We too are called to be in close communion of prayer with the Father so that with Christ's courage and love we can confront the powers of destruction in our world. In this regard, we might take to heart that astonishing passage in the fourth gospel: " . . . whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father” (Jn 14:12). Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern Matthew 16: 13 - 20 When I was a child I loved to have keys. It didn't matter if they were old car keys, house keys, a trunk key, or whatever, having a set of keys made me feel grown up. I notice to this day children with keys, and sometimes a parent handing a set of keys to a fussy toddler serves as a good pacifier.

Keys give a sense of importance because having keys makes one important. Something of value is kept under lock and key. The person with a key has access to a place where others do not. The person with the key is entrusted with the responsibility of caring for whatever it is that is locked up. In the Gospel today Jesus entrusts Peter with the keys to the kingdom. In this case it is more the image and the message that it conveys than actual physical keys that is important. I don't think that the Pearly Gates are kept under lock and key. The image is that Peter is given the authority on earth, as leader of the apostles and ultimately the Church, to act in the name of the Lord.

It is the keys that symbolize this, and this symbol did not end with the death of Peter, but has continued to symbolize the authority of the one who sits in the Chair of Peter as Pope. Both the Papal Seal and the Pope's Coat of Arms contain the image of two keys representing the authority given to him by non other than Christ Himself. The authority of Peter and his successors is rather clear in this passage. Jesus gave Peter and the Apostles all the authority to "bind and Loose”, but he speaks only to Peter when he tells him that he is entrusted with the keys. Bishops today are successors of the Apostles and they have the same authority to "bind and Loose”, but it is only the Pope who holds the keys. The Bishops function in union with, and under the authority of the Pope.

This is referred to as the Hierarchy, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it thus; "The Apostles and their successors, the college of bishops, to whom Christ gave the authority to teach, sanctify, and rule in his name.” (CCC 873) This is an awesome charge, and I am always impressed when a Bishop celebrates Mass and instead of inserting his name in the Eucharistic Prayer instead says, "for me your unworthy servant.” The authority they have is an authority that humbles and calls them to service. To teach, sanctify, and rule (sometimes translated as govern) in the name of Christ are awesome tasks. When a bishop teaches it is not in his own name, or his own opinion, it is in the name of Christ. A bishop sanctifies us through his prayers, his service and his example knowing that we are always listening and watching.

A bishop governs in the name of Christ and not at his own whim. Upon reflecting on this Gospel passage may we keep the Holy Father and our bishops in prayer. May they be given the graces and gifts they need to live out their calling in such a way as to truly reflect the mind of Christ. Our spiritual care is entrusted to them and this is a mighty weight upon them. May they walk with Christ who will help them with this mighty task and help them to be Good Shepherds. Finally, may we be blessed to be faithful members of the flock, attentive to the voice, presence and care of our Shepherds. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
19 Ordinary Time
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospels are not long documents. The events which comprise the public ministry of Jesus are presented to us in the briefest possible terms and the Evangelists move very rapidly from one incident to another.

A typical novel usually has about 90,000 words while the length of the Gospels varies from around 11,000 in Mark to just over 19,000 words in Luke. So, we are talking about considerably less than a quarter the size of a typical paperback book.

Every Catholic home should have a Bible or at the very least a copy of the four Gospels. But it shouldn't just stay on the shelf, it should be in the corner where we say our prayers. When we pray it is good to have the Gospels within easy reach. We might surprise ourselves at how often we consult them during prayer. We might be also surprised at how this expands our knowledge and love of the Gospels.

The extract given for our consideration today is taken from chapter fourteen of Matthew's Gospel but this chapter includes an awful lot of material. It contains the death of John the Baptist, the multiplication of loaves and Jesus walking on the water. And all this is in just 660 words, which is about one side of a sheet of A4 paper.

Not a word is wasted, the Evangelists confine themselves to a direct account of what happened. They simply present the facts and refrain from comment. This is good, because it gives their readers an unbiased account of what Jesus said and did. And that is their intention, they want their readers to evaluate Jesus on the specifics and not on someone else's opinion.

Let us take a look at the text given for our consideration today. Jesus sends his disciples off in the boat telling them to go to the other side of the lake while he goes up into the hills to pray. Just before dawn, as they battle with the heavy sea, the disciples encounter Jesus walking on the water and not believing this is possible they conclude he must be a ghost.

At this point Jesus tells them not to be afraid. As if to test whether this really was Jesus or not, Peter asks Jesus to invite him out of the boat so that he too can walk on the water. When Peter flounders Jesus chides him for his lack of faith. But when they get into the boat the other disciples profess their faith in the words, 'Truly, you are the Son of God.' Interestingly, these are almost exactly the same words uttered by the Centurion later on in Matthew's Gospel as he stood by the Cross of Calvary.

It is a wonderfully simple account of a most extraordinary event which can surely be counted among Jesus' greatest miracles. We are also given an example of Peter's impetuosity as well as his lack of faith. Peter surely wants to believe but he is found wanting at the last moment. Jesus chides him; not as a condemnation but in a rather gentle and supportive way. 'Why did you doubt?' he says.

An interesting point to note is that this event occurred shortly before dawn. This is significant. The Sea of Galilee is not that big being only eight miles wide and, even with the wind against them, with some judicious tacking the disciples should have been able to cross it in a couple of hours.

The point though is that the timing is symbolic. Jesus comes to them shortly before dawn. And by this Matthew is inferring that it is shortly before the moment of greatest importance in the history of the world, he means us to understand that this encounter with Jesus walking on the water occurred shortly before the events that brought about our salvation.

The stress by Jesus on the importance of faith is also very pertinent. He, of course, knows that Peter will deny him later in the High Priest's house. But Jesus knows too that after his resurrection he will, beside this same lake, rehabilitate Peter. And he is also well aware that this Peter is the one he has chosen to lead the whole Church and who would keep faith with him even unto death.

The image of Christ walking on the water and his lifting up of the sinking Peter is a favourite one in the history of art. It is also commonly to be found in stained glass windows in country churches and it is an image that most of us immediately recognise and often find ourselves drawn to. We find the picture so attractive because it seems to sum up our own situation in life. Like Peter we want to believe but at the last minute, also like him, we are assailed by doubts. We want to walk on the water of faith but we find ourselves sinking. And our prayer at that moment is that Christ will reach out to us and save us from drowning. However, we understand that it is our desire to believe that we need to hold on to rather than our doubts.

Actually, what we see here is something rather important. First of all, Peter reaches out to Christ as he attempts to walk towards him on the water. But then Christ reaches out to Peter to save him from drowning. I think that this two-fold action is essential to all true faith.

When we profess our faith, we reach out to Christ and at the same time he reaches out to us. If we can realise that this is what is happening when we express our faith I am sure that we will all find it very helpful. If we can imagine that the hand of Christ is always there stretched out to save us from drowning then in times of doubt we will feel far less anxious.

Our tendency is to think of faith as a one-way street but this is not correct. After all, we know that faith is, first and foremost, a gift from God. Faith then is a mutual process and both God and ourselves have a part to play.

As we have seen, God initiates faith first by placing the desire to believe in him in our hearts. Over the course of time we feed this desire through prayer and our study of the Gospels. Then at appropriate moments we reach out to God, placing all our hope and trust in him, despite whatever doubts we may be experiencing. God in turn reaches out to us and grasps our hand and helps us into the boat. The boat representing, of course, the Church.

We see then that faith is something mutual. We see that the events taking place on that stormy sea are replicated in our own lives. We marvel at this process and find ourselves ever more emboldened and strengthened in our faith as we continue our lifelong pilgrimage in the direction of the Kingdom.
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