by Rev. Luke Dunden
First Reading - 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Responsorial Psalm - 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14
Second Reading - Romans 9:1-5
Gospel - Matthew 14:22-33
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them. “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Summertime. Perfect time for trips to fairs. . . and my family many years ago was making such a trip, the New York State fair. My Dad and I were perusing by various exhibits that usually cost a couple tokens… the exhibit billboards certainly caught my eight year-olds’ attention!!! Come see the amazing man-size snake, the headless woman (no oxygen required!), the two-headed bear…I was all set to visit these awesome displays, but my Dad caught me every time and eventually gave me a one-on-one on something called “good use of my money.” So I put my money to good use at the end…by purchasing some magic tricks at the souvenir stand…if I couldn’t visit the dazzling shows, I would learn them myself and show them to others…interlink two separate rings into one chain (usually I lost one of them before the trick began), and the amazing card tricks…pay attention to the card on top! Usually because I would accidentally let a couple fall under the table…thus causing a less-than-enthusiastic applause by my audience.
But the idea was there…Pay attention to that card on top, or you’ll miss the trick! Ignore the cards falling under the table…ignore the wind, earthquake and fire, Listen for the tiny whispering sound, or you’ll miss the Lord who is passing by…Greater steaks at play here, Peter, ignore the wind and waves, pay attention to the Lord who calls you…Pay attention to the Lord who speaks…the Lord who is the Living Word of God…changes are coming to the Mass, words are changing, words which will be more faithful to the original Scripture…Why bother being faithful to Scripture? Stay tuned, pay attention to these words…for this is no magic trick…
First, Peter, sees the ghost who says He’s Jesus…that’s a relief! But, just to be sure, he calls out – “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he says…our Lord does indeed respond to Peter’s request.
However! Pay attention to the words – “Lord, if it is you…” similar words have been spoken before… and not by the friendliest of persons…in the middle of the desert – “If it is you…if you are the Son of God…command these stones to become loaves of bread.” And from the pinnacle of the temple – “if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you.’” Does Jesus answer these “requests,” rather these taunts and tests? No…they are not requests born of faith and love…”if you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Jesus does none of these things…he will not turn stones into bread…but he does multiply loaves and fishes in abundance!!! He will not throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple as a spectacle for the angels…but He does come across the water at night…the very things He was pressured to do, He does so with greater power and wonder and majesty, he does so not to satisfy the tempter’s curiosity, but to conquer the fear and strengthen the faith of his disciples. Come down from the cross? He doesn’t come down from the cross, He reigns upon the cross and conquers death upon it. Pay attention to every word, for EVERY WORD has meaning, EVERY WORD reveals our infinite God, not one word goes to waste in Sacred Scripture!
He indeed reveals Himself…but sometimes we still do not recognize Him… “Lord, IF it is you…” – the Lord calls Peter, and He comes…and starts to sink! Pay attention, Peter, for the devil didn’t know whom he was speaking to in the desert, but in your faith you know who calls you onto the water…go to Him and don’t be afraid! He calls you, He calls every son and Daughter of His Father, to a life of holiness, to a life of greatness, to a life that shall tread through the Lion’s Den, across the crashing waves, across the burning flames, but you shall not be harmed…just pay attention to Me, Keep your eyes focused on ME, says the Lord! As soon as Peter took His eyes off Jesus, He began to sink…perhaps he has short-term memory loss, for what did the Lord just tell him?
“Take courage…It is I…Be not afraid!”
Take courage – also translated, Be of good cheer! Don’t just hold on with your eyes-shut, that’s for roller-coasters, this is the Lord we’re meeting!! Have child-like confidence, the Lord is here, He has multiplied the loaves and fishes, and now He comes to you upon the water.
It is I – also translated again, “I AM!” The Sacred Name of Yahweh, given to Moses – I once came to you in a burning bush that is never consumed, and now I come to you across the water…
Be not afraid! – Notice Christ does not say “Try not to be afraid!” – Peter asks Jesus to command him – Jesus has already commanded HIM! FEAR IS NOT AN OPTION, Christ wants us to walk across water, at every part of our life’s journey, and fear CANNOT be an ingredient in that! Blessed Pope John Paul II began his pontificate as such, “Be not afraid.” Our life is not founded on fear, but on love…Christ is with us…
Two thousand years later, we respond: Lord, we KNOW it is you, help us to pay attention to your every Word, may we let go of fear and come to you across the turbulent waters of our own lives…and He responds: Come, my son, my daughter, never doubt, but believe! I call you to receive me now at this Mass…when so many things may distract you, take courage, simply keep your eyes and heart fixed on me in this Holy Eucharist, and say, “AMEN! The waves disappear, we are not afraid, for this is no magic trick…YOU, LORD, ARE THE SON of GOD.”