Sunday, August 7, 2011

Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
19th Sunday
in Ordinary Time Aug. 7, 2011
Matt 14: 22-33
Willow Towers, New Rochelle
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison

“He went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone” (Matt 14: 23).

Have you noticed that whenever Jesus prays, he’s alone? Even when he takes disciples with him, when he asks them to keep vigil and pray with him, they fall asleep and leave him, in effect, alone (26:36-45).
In one sense, this is fitting. As important as community is, as important as Church is—each of us must be in a personal, one-to-one relationship with God. No one else can keep vigil for us. No one else can be a close friend of God on our behalf. Each one of us has to stand alone before God and account for himself or herself.

One of the changes in our translation of the Mass texts next Advent is going to reflect this singular relationship to which God calls us. No longer will we profess “We believe in one God, we believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, we believe in the Holy Spirit.” Reflecting the Latin text, Credo in unum Deum, etc., and reflecting the individuality of our Baptism, we’ll say, “I believe.”

I am responsible before God for confessing the Catholic faith, for living as a genuine disciple of Jesus, and for praying—for being in a relationship of praise, of penitence, and of gratitude with my Father in heaven. So our prayer, in this sense, is always an isolated act and state of being, even when we’re surrounded by our fellow believers, as we are right now; even when we’re praying for others and others are praying for us—all of which is very important.

There’s another meaning in the gospel verse and passage, tho. Over and over again in the gospels, Jesus is the only one in a committed relationship with God. The apostles are good men, but they don’t demonstrate at all that they’re God’s men. They certainly aren’t ready to be canonized. One of them will never make it. Jesus tries to teach them to pray (6:6-13), but we never actually see them doing so until after his resurrection. So Jesus is alone, by himself, in seeking God’s will, in trusting God’s will, in acting on God’s will, in living for God.

Christ Walking on the Water, by Amedee Varin

All of which makes the situation of the disciples in the gospel story a wonderful metaphor. When we say that someone’s at sea, we mean he’s lost, wandering, entirely unsure of what to do or where to go or how to get himself out of some pickle. When someone’s swamped at sea, he’s in imminent peril. Such is our life—our spiritual life, our moral life, the very direction of purpose of our lives, unless we’ve integrated God into our lives. That requires prayer. The apostles will always be lost, always floundering, until they learn to turn to God, to trust in God, to put themselves into God’s hands (cf. 14:30-31).

And so will we. Like Peter, we need for Jesus to reach out a hand and save us—or guide us, forgive us, console us, strengthen us. Like Peter, we have to call out to God for that help. We have to pray.

Jesus saves Peter, by Rembrandt

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