Browsing Homilies

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a | Ps 85 | Rom 9:1-5 | Mt 14:22-33

One image of the Church is that of a boat. This is usually based on Noah’s ark, the great ship that God used to save Noah, his family, and numerous animals from being killed in the flood. Just so, the Church is a great ship, built by God, that protects us from the flood and storms of this life.

There is another dimension to the image of the Church as a great boat other than it being just a place of safety. The image of the Church as a boat is also a call to go on mission. Boats don’t just stay anchored to the safety of the harbor—they have a purpose, a function, an end. They go out into the vast and dangerous sea. They brave the wind and the waves on their way to other ports and destinations. Just so, the Church doesn’t only gather us in the walls of this parish to hide us from the dangers of life. She also sends us forth from here on a mission to bring the good news to those around us and encourages others to join us on this exciting voyage to eternity. The two dimensions of this image of the Church as a great sailing vessel that both protects us and sends us forth are present in today’s readings.

First, we hear the story of the great prophet from the Hebrew Scriptures, Elijah. He was in a cave hiding from a wicked king (Ahab) and his wife (Jezebel). She had brought the worship of a foreign god, to the land of Israel and in the process, went throughout the countryside putting to death all the priests and prophets of the true God of Israel. Only Elijah was left, and to keep from being killed alongside the others, he took shelter and sought refuge in a cave.

It was there, in the place where Elijah was hiding, that God came to meet him, demonstating that God always meets where we're at. We only hear proclaimed a portion of what happened when God revealed God’s Self to Elijah, but there is more to the story. In essence, God goes on to tell Elijah that it’s time to stop hiding and time to get out and get to work, So, though Elijah was afraid, God called him out from the cave and sent him to anoint two kings who would put an end to Ahab and Jezebel, and a prophet who would succeed Elijah.

All of us here today have some fears that are holding us back; in hiding from some danger that we perceive is out there. That danger might be very real, or it might be just in our minds. Whatever the case, the fear is real. But God is calling us out of hiding and out into the world to do whatever it is He is calling us to.

Can you name your fear? Where are you hiding from the world and from God? Because there is nowhere we can go that God cannot find us. He wants to reveal Himself to us in a gentle way: always by invitation, and in a way that won’t further scare us or make us want to go deeper into hiding or even further isolation.

In the Gospel, the boat that the disciples find themselves in is being tossed about by the waves. They are in very real danger of sinking and drowning. The boat that they thought would keep them safe is no match for the storm they are in. As with Elijah, it’s when they are most in danger that Jesus appears to the disciples. He is walking on the water to make it clear that he has power over the chaos.

Then, before Jesus calms the storm, Peter does something extraordinary. He is willing to step out of the relative safety of the boat into the storm. After only a few steps, he seems to realize just how crazy what he’s doing is, takes his eyes off Our Lord, and quickly begins to sink.

As disciples of Christ, we will find ourselves caught in storms that seem to come up out of nowhere. It could be opposition that we face from the culture around us. It could be rejection from our own family and friends. Or it could just be the temptations of everyday life. When the winds blow and the waves break over the bow, it can be tempting to run for cover and hold tight to the mast.

But Jesus is inviting us to trust him and act boldly. He is inviting us, like Peter, to step out of the comfortable, safe places we’ve made for ourselves and face the storm with our eyes fixed on him. Like the boat in today’s gospel, our safety and comfort zones aren’t as safe and comfortable as we think they are. They are bound to be damaged in the storm and shipwrecked. If we hold on too tightly to them, then we will be damaged and shipwrecked along with them. But if we step out with trust in God, even if we are petrified, we will discover possibilities and strengths within us that we never thought possible. And we will be delivered from the storms of life in the process.

Jesus, you summon us in prayer, “Come to me!” You beckon us when we are heavily laden. You call to us when we are afraid. You want to give us the gift of your lasting peace. At the same time, you know that we push back. You even know why, when we do not. Lord, strengthen our spirituality and the gift of our faith so that we might grow more sensitive to hearing you. Help us to remember that you are restless for us. Open our hands and help us come to you.


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