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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear friends in Christ,

            The first reading today takes us back about 860 years before Christ. Elijah had to deal with the pagan queen Jezebel and her pagan prophets of Baal. After defeating the queen’s prophets and destroying them, Jezebel retained her power and went after Elijah’s life. In his despair, Elijah told God, “I’ve had enough; take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” God arrived and spoke with the prophet.

            In the second reading, St. Paul felt “great sorrow and constant anguish” because his fellow Jews had not accepted Christ as Messiah. Instead they were battling him. God revealed to him that one day he would draw his people to Christ. Paul could only put matters in God’s hands and wait.

            In the Gospel, the Apostles were in trouble, feeling alone and powerless in a small boat battered by waves and strong head wind. “During the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them walking on the sea” and told them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  

            Peter’s cry for help is a real prayer. C.H. Spurgeon, the great 19th century preacher wrote: “Sinking times are praying times… Short prayers are long enough… There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out, “Lord, save me!” but they were sufficient for his purpose…Not length but strength… All that is real prayer in many a long address might have been uttered in a petition as short as that of Peter.”   

In this Gospel story we see the picture of today’s Church, tossed from the outside world by opposing forces, and tempted from within by fear and uncertainties. At times we are scared and feel desperate. We too should learn from Peter to cry out for help, trusting that Jesus will appear in the night, “walking toward us on the water” to show his triumph over chaos and evil.

God’s help is beyond our hope, what is needed is that we place our trust in him: “In you, Lord, is our hope: and we shall never hope in vain.” (Te Deum).

 

            Fr. Joe