August 8, 2008

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. However, 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 mention prophets, who spoke for God.

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

But such are not the media through which God communicates to his people. At last, Elijah hears a tiny whispering sound. It is the voice of God.

Several lessons are apparent 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 the storm and in the earthquake. He believed that God is supreme over nature, as indeed God is.

But, as the New Testament eventually would specifically teach, God’s ways are not human ways.

Finally, not acting in human ways, God appears in places and events and forms that are 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 the second reading for this weekend.

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

Paul also mourns that many of his kin do not accept God. But, despite the fact that some walk away from the Gospel, Paul insists that he will remain true to his calling as a Christian and as an Apostle. He urges the Romans to also be faithful.

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

In this story, the Lord literally walks 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 on the water. Indeed, Jesus invited Peter to come forward.

However, also as often happened, Peter’s impulsiveness gave way to uncertainty and doubt. When these feelings took hold, Peter’s own ability to walk on the water failed and he began to sink beneath the surface of the lake.

Jesus, however, was not outdone by Peter’s lack of faith, and pulled him from the water, rescuing him from death.


It is a truism to say that God’s ways are not our ways. More precisely, the message is that we are limited. Our perceptions are blurred. Selfishness and fear confound us.

Life cannot be measured just by earthly standards. It must be measured by its totality, in other words, with attention given 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, in fact, we are limited. Our outlook is not necessarily on target. Our wishes are not always that pure. We may love the Lord, and we may attempt to be with the Lord, but at times we try to reach Jesus by relying upon ourselves. We try to walk on water.

We need God’s strength even in our effort to find God. But first in the process, however, we must be humble. We must recognize who and what we are. †

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