August 11, 2017

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings is the source of this weekend’s first reading. The two Books of Kings highlight the kings of the united kingdom of Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon, but neither book is a political history. Both books are religious works. The chief purpose of these writings is to call the people to be loyal to God.

Thus, along with the kings, and often more emphatically and extensively than the kings, these books tell the stories of prophets, who spoke for God.

For example, this weekend’s reading centers on the prophet Elijah. He tries to hear God, believing that God will speak to him. But looking for God in all the wrong places, Elijah expects to hear the Almighty in raging storms and in natural upheavals.

Such are not the means through which God seeks to communicate with Elijah. At last, Elijah hears a tiny whispering sound. It is the voice of God.

Several lessons are in this reading. First, God communicates with humanity in ways that they can perceive.

Second, in communicating with humans, God does not always meet their expectations. Elijah looked for God in great outbursts of nature, in a storm and earthquake. Elijah believed that God is supreme over nature, as indeed he is.

As the New Testament eventually would specifically teach, God’s ways are not human ways. Not acting in human ways, God appears in places and events and forms least expected, such as in tiny whispering sounds in the middle of storms and earth tremors.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans again furnishes this weekend’s second reading.

In this passage, Paul verified his status as an Apostle, and his truthfulness. He had to identify himself. He faced imposters. His writings made clear the fact that some disputed Paul, questioning his vocation as an Apostle.

He also mourned that many of his kin did not accept God. Despite the fact that some walked away from the Gospel, however, Paul insisted that he would remain true to his calling as a Christian and as an Apostle. He urged the Romans also to be faithful.

For its last reading this weekend, the Church turns to St. Matthew’s Gospel.

In this story, the Lord literally walked across water to reach the boat from which the Apostles were fishing. Peter, impulsive as was his personality, leaped from the boat attempting to meet Jesus. Indeed, Jesus had invited Peter to come forward.

As often happened, Peter’s initial impulsiveness gave way to uncertainty and doubt. When these feelings took hold, Peter’s own ability to walk on the water failed. He began to sink.

Jesus, not at all outdone by Peter’s lack of faith, pulled the Apostle from the water, rescuing him from death.

Reflection

It is a truism today that God’s ways are not our ways. Of course, they are not. We are limited. Our perceptions are blurred. Selfishness and fear lead us astray.

Life cannot be measured just by earthly standards. It must be measured by its totality, in other words, with attention given to the fact of eternity.

Jesus is the Son of God. He walked on water. He is the source of life. He is the only security. He alone gives eternal life.

The greatest practical lesson to learn from these readings is that we are only human. Our outlook is not necessarily on target. Our wishes are not always pure. We may love the Lord, and we may attempt to be with the Lord, but at times we try to find happiness by relying upon ourselves. We try to walk on water. We always will fall into the water as did Peter.

We need God’s strength. First of all, we must humbly realize who and what we are. †

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