Sunday, August 9, 2020

Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Well just call on me brother when you need a hand, we all need somebody to lean on!

We all need a hand every now and again in our lives don't we?  Children need the loving hands of a mom and a dad, a man and a woman in love can be seen holding hands, a generous nurse or doctor comforts a patient while holding their hand at a difficult and challenging time in their life.  We clap our hands to affirm others!  We need a hand!  This sure has been driven home during this time of "isolation" during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Maybe a more accurate song reference today would be that classic sung by Anne Murray and Elvis Presley himself: put your hand in the hand of the Man who stilled the water; put your hand in the hand of the Man who calmed the sea!

As people of faith, do we reach out our hands to the only One who can save us, Jesus Christ, who wants to take us by the hand?

Our Gospel today picks up right where we left off last Sunday. The crowds have now been fed, satisfied, and Jesus has dismissed them as his disciples go on ahead of him by boat. Jesus still was longing for that quiet time to pray and mourn for the news of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist, was still fresh. While the disciples crossed the sea they encountered a strong headwind that whipped up into a storm. It was the fourth watch of the night, this would be about 3 a.m. And here comes Jesus, walking on the water and approaching his friends, yet they did not recognize Him; they declare it is a ghost. Now if we were to be honest with ourselves, we too would be pretty scared. Walking on water is not something a man can do and their faith was not yet mature enough to understand. 

And who do we have first to speak up? It is Peter, who so many of us can relate to. He wants to be bold and he wants to be out front, but often his faith is weak and he is plagued with human weakness and impatience. Lord, if it is you, make me walk on the water too. Jesus simply replies, come. And here is an important line in today’s Gospel: Peter got out of the boat. Not only did he get out, he walked on water because in those few early moments, his focus was on Jesus. But his focus turned to the wind and the waves and he began to sink. Again, an important line in this Gospel: Lord, save me! Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter. This should be for us hearing this today, no matter how many times we hear it, a lesson in living in faith. First, we must understand that life will not always be easy; storms will come and the winds of those storms will be against us. But no matter what, like Peter, we must get out of the boat. When our friends and family need us, we need to get out of the boat. When our parish family needs us, we need to get out of the boat. When someone is hungry, thirsty, lonely, frightened, get out of the boat! When someone is being discriminated or humiliated or bullied, we must get out of the boat. When our faith is under attack; when our nation still clamors to abort babies, promote euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and yes, even same sex unions promoted as “marriage”, we must get out of the boat. When we hear of crowds frustrated by confusing and weak immigration laws screaming at a bus load of women and children, we must get out of the boat. When our government, battling day and night against each other, passes any legislation that places undue burdens on the poorest and neediest of our land, we must get out of the boat.  As we learn more and more of Christian persecution in places like Iraq and Syria, we must get out of the boat.  When confronted with the sin of racism and the irresponsible reactions that burn cities and churches, we must get out of the boat. And for us personally, we may have been away from reconciliation far too long; it’s time to get out of the boat. As Catholics, perhaps we are not faithfully praying every day or demonstrating our faith daily for those around us, we must get out of the boat.  There is someone we must reconcile with, we must get out of the boat!

Now, when we get out of the boat and keep our focus only on Jesus, we will walk on, strongly, in faith.  We will witness Christ to others. But when the wind and waves of family and friends who disagree with us hit, when the world tells you your nuts for caring, when we are distracted by ours, or others political or social beliefs, we loose focus on Jesus and we will sink. My friends, we most certainly will sink.  We are challenged not to sink by focusing on Jesus and reaching out always for his hand.

But there is hope even in these situations; like Peter we must say: Lord save me, say it loud; save me Lord  then we must also reach out our hand to meet the hand of Jesus, who stretches His hand to us to catch us. We must put our hand in the hand of the Man, God the Son, who stilled the waters and calmed the seas.  We must call on our Savior, when we need a hand.

In the week ahead, keep this Gospel passage open on your kitchen table or next to your bed and pray this Scripture several times. And then in our quiet reflection, ask ourselves, when and where do I need to get out of the boat? And knowing in advance the difficulties, the storms and headwinds, we will face, will we cry out most sincerely: Lord save me. And then will we reach out our hand to meet His?  Pray daily this week for our persecuted brothers and sisters across the world who need our prayers and our hands stretched out to them in hope that their pain and suffering will soon end.  Pray daily this week for all those suffering due to Coronavirus, including those who are suffering economic hardships because of this pandemic.  And if I can beg one more request, pray for the men in Rayburn Prison, who work to overcome their sins and shortfalls despite having all ministries, all access to confession, the mass and communal prayer completely shut down because of Covid19.

Maybe we can remember to do all these things by just simply saying: Jesus, I need your hand, I stretch out my hand to you, save me!

No comments:

Post a Comment