19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Joseph Levine; August 9, 2020
Readings: 1 Kg 19:9a, 11-13a; Ps 85:9-14; Rm 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33
In today’s 1st reading we hear about the prophet Elijah hearing the voice of God in a still small voice at the mountain of God, Horeb. Elijah had fled to the mountain of God, making an arduous journey through the desert. He was fleeing the persecution of the wicked Queen Jezebel who had led the people of God into idolatry.
The true mountain of God is Jesus Christ, the man who is the very Son of God, who was born of the Virgin Mary and became man, whose holiness reaches to the very throne of God from which he came. For that reason, unlike Elijah, we do not need to make an arduous desert journey to reach the mountain of God. We need only journey so far as the nearest tabernacle in which Jesus dwells in the Holy Eucharist, in his True Body, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, and risen from the dead.
Outwardly we need only make the simple trip to the nearest tabernacle, but inwardly we must make the desert journey of self-denial, taking up our Cross and following Jesus, so as to draw near to him not just with our body, but also in our heart.
The inward desert journey requires faith, prayer, and the cultivation of silence in the heart.
There is much noise inside, noise of fiery passions, noise of earthshaking sufferings, sorrows, and fears, noise of windy thoughts and arguments, the din of slogans and the whirl of images.
The Lord is not found in any of these. It might not be in our power to silence them altogether, but we must learn to pay them no heed and direct our attention elsewhere to hear the voice of the Lord.
We must learn to look to the Lord in the tabernacle. We must learn to contemplate the face of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. We must learn to listen to his language of silence.
Only then will we hear the voice of the Lord who speaks peace to his people.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. (Jn 14:27)
The world speaks words promising peace, but the words are false. Jesus Christ gives a true peace that begins in the heart.
The Gospel gives us the same message as the 1st reading. Like the disciples we may feel alone and abandon on the boat on the sea, struggling against adverse winds. The Lord has not forgotten us. He is our great high Priest, who has ascended to the top of the mountain, to the right hand of the Father. There he always lives to intercede for us. (cf. Heb 7:25) That perpetual intercession of his priesthood is always made present and active to us through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are able spiritually to ascend the mountain of God with him; through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass he wants to anchor our hearts at the right hand of the Father.
So St. Paul writes to us: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Col 3:1)
To reassure the disciples in the boat Jesus came to them over the water saying, Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid. He wants to come to us and speak these words to our heart in holy communion.
Peter, at the command of Jesus, went out to him, walking on the water. When he took his eyes off Jesus, looking instead at the wind and the waves, he began to sink. Again, Jesus is teaching us: we need to keep our inward gaze focused on him. He is the one who will bring calm to the storm.
Yes, the Lord speaks of peace to his people, to his faithful ones who strive to do his will, even when they labor against adverse winds, even when they feel abandoned.
The Lord speaks of peace to his people.
It is the Lord himself who came over the water to his disciples; it is the Lord himself who will save us.
He will come to us neither by a vaccine, nor by hydroxychloroquine, neither by protests and riots, nor by the police, neither by Biden, nor by Trump. It is not that all these matters are equal or indifferent, but none of them are the source of salvation and peace. The Psalmist warns us, Put not your trust in princes. (Ps 146:3)
Now there is a well-known joke that goes something like this: a man was sitting on the top of his house in the middle of a rising flood. Someone comes along in a canoe and offers to take him to safety, but the man refuses saying, “No. I trust is the Lord, he is my help and my salvation.” The water keeps rising and someone else comes along in motorboat and offers to take him to safety. Again, the man refuses saying, “No. I trust is the Lord, he is my help and my salvation.” Finally, as the water is nearing the roof a helicopter flies over; they let down a lifeline and urge him to grab ahold of it. He declares once more, “No. I trust is the Lord, he is my help and my salvation.” So, he drowns in the flood. When he appeared before the Lord he complained, “Lord, why didn’t you come to save me?” The Lord replied, “What do mean? I sent you a canoe, a motorboat, and a helicopter, but you would have none of it.”
This seems to contradict everything I have said so far. Of course, while it contains an element of truth, it is also only a joke.
Well, true prudence possesses the capacity of ‘sizing up’ the reality of a situation; supernatural prudence, which is strengthened by the Holy Spirit through the gift of Counsel, sizes up a situation in the light of the Gospel and our supreme goal of eternal salvation.
So, yes there are times when we should make use of natural and human helps that are at hand. At times that is the help God provides. We should also have the prudence to recognize the ‘strings attached’ and the hidden agendas, especially when it comes to things like government funding. Natural and human helps can only assist us directly in respect to our life in this world; they serve our eternal salvation only in the measure they can lead us to the supernatural helps that God provides us. In the supernatural order the ‘canoe, the motorboat, and the helicopter’ are the Church, the Sacraments, and the word of God, in Scripture and Tradition. We actually need all three.
In any case, right now, at this moment, our nation, the whole world, and indeed the Church herself, are experiencing a crisis of unheard proportions – a crisis of which Covid is only a small part, sort of like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. There is no human solution.
Put not your trust in princes, or presidents, or politicians, or experts, or doctors, and especially not the news media and the social media.
The Lord will indeed come to save those who put their trust in him. He will come in a way that is proportioned to the severity of the crisis. He will come in a way that is presently unknown and unlooked for. Indeed, he has already told us, he will come as a thief in the night, at an unexpected hour. (cf. Mt 24:43-44)
Therefore, watch in hope, in prayer, and in fidelity to the will of God.