Read 1 Kings 19:9,11-13, Ps. 85:9-14, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:22-33
“And in the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea.” (Matthew 14:25)
Since last Sunday fell on the 6th day of August, we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter, James, and John were surprised to see Jesus transfigured before their eyes with Moses and Elijah. Jesus did not change. Instead, God opened the eyes of the disciples to see Jesus’ true nature, just as God allowed Daniel to see a vision of Jesus hundreds of years before His birth.
In today’s Gospel passage, something similar to the Transfiguration of Jesus took place. Jesus did not enter the boat with His disciples, but at the fourth watch of the night, while the disciples were struggling with the waves, they saw Jesus walking to them on water. They thought it was a ghost because they could not imagine how a human could walk on water. As He did with Peter, James and John, Jesus walked on water to reveal His Divinity and to assure them of His ever-abiding presence.
Are you lost at sea, unable to know where to turn? Has life been very harsh to you like it was with Elijah, who found himself fleeing from Jezebel in today’s First Reading? Has your faith in God begun to wane due to the troubles all around you? Today’s message is just for you. Let us now consider some lessons contained in our readings today.
1. Who Am I to Jesus? Disciple or Crowd?
Matthew explains today that just after the crowds had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.” Everywhere Jesus went, there were great crowds, most of whom had no personal relationship with Jesus. Some followed because they wanted miracles or because they saw others following. Some even followed to find fault with Jesus (to pull Him down) and so on. Knowing this, Jesus spoke to them in parables but would explain everything privately to His disciples.
As much as Jesus loved everyone equally, Jesus knew that not everyone could be carried along simultaneously. Of course, there are some whose hearts were like seeds planted along the roadside. Some people followed Jesus but joined in shouting: “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” Dear friends, enough is enough to be a number in the crowd; Jesus invites you today to become a disciple. Jesus is inviting you to go beyond being a Baby Christian to one whose faith remains unshaken despite trials and difficulties like Elijah and St. Paul, whom we encounter in our first and second reading today.
Jesus invites you today to enter the boat and go before him to the other side. Jesus wants you to distance yourself from the crowds (so-called Christians who do not live like Christ). Jesus wants you to graduate from crowd to disciple.
2. Prayer is the Master Key
After the crowds had been dismissed, Jesus had time to do what He wanted to do before feeding the multitudes. He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When we examine the life of Jesus, you will notice this pattern; after every episode of great miracles, He would spend ample time in prayer (even whole nights). Prayer was Jesus’ favourite recreational activity; He was never too tired to pray. How is your prayer life?
Another important detail Matthew provides us today is that Jesus prayed alone. “When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land…” Jesus practically demonstrates what He taught us about prayer in the Sermon on the Mount: “Beware of practising your piety before men to be seen by them…when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1&6).
Sadly, some of us do not know how to pray alone; we only pray when asked to or in public to give others the impression that we are holy. We can afford to spend hours with our mobile phones fully engaged, but we consider it boring to be alone with God, to visit the Blessed Sacrament and sit still before God.
In today’s first reading, Elijah experiences the presence of God in a still, small voice on Mount Horeb. There were loud noises, heavy winds, earthquakes and fire, but God was not in these. We live in a very noisy world; many do not know how to be silent. Even within our liturgical worship, we hardly give room for silence to allow God to speak directly to our hearts. There is nothing wrong with raising one’s voice at prayer, but the truth is that even in silence, God can still be found.
3. Fear Not; God is Never Far from You.
In his prayer, Jesus could see the trouble with the disciples even though they were many furlongs distant from the land. Jesus saw that they were beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. Dear friends, regardless of what we may be going through, let this image stick with us; let us always be assured that God sees everything happening to us and that He knows, understands, and cares deeply for our well-being. We can never leave the presence of God as the Psalmist sings:
“Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there, your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12).
Most often, I hear Christians saying: “Father, I don’t understand what is happening, oh” and then they mention everything that is not all right with them. They see their problems clearly but cannot see where and how God comes into the picture. While the children of Israel could only see Goliath, David saw God and had this inner peace and assurance within his heart that he could face Goliath. So long as Peter gazed on Jesus, he could walk on water, but when he turned his gaze to the winds, he began to sink.
Stop looking at the enormity of your problems and start learning how to fix your gaze permanently on God; learn to practice being in the presence of God. When we often ask, “God, where are you?” we forget He is always there. Your situation may be so bad that you now expect only the worst to happen; everything may have gotten out of hand, and your whole world may appear to be collapsing before your eyes; know this: God is right here with you. Even when you cannot picture Jesus walking on top of your crisis, know that it is impossible to be away from His presence.
Conclusion: Jesus is Lord of Heaven and Earth
Every one of us needs to ask ourselves today: “Who do I think is really in charge of this world?” If you truly believe that God is in charge, I ask the question that Jesus asked Peter: “O you of little faith, why are you doubting?” Why are you having sleepless nights after praying? Why are you expecting bad things to happen? Do you think God does not know what He is doing?
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, grant us increased faith. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 1 Kings 19:9,11-13, Ps. 85:9-14, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:22-33).
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu