In our first reading from 1st Kings we have the wonderful story of Elijah. He had been wanting to die because he felt abandoned by God, he had been tested, threatened, bullied by king and companions, and persecuted. The Lord convinced him to make an incredible journey. The prize at the end, an encounter with God. At the end of the journey we find Elijah waiting in a cave where he has spent the night waiting for God to reveal God’s self. God speaks and invites Elijah to go and stand on the mountain with the promise that he will pass by. We are told there is a great wind, an earthquake, a fire and then absolute silence. Each event holds the possibility of God’s presence. Somehow Elijah understands that God is there in the silence and with face covered he greets him.
In the Gospel, we pick up where we left off last Sunday. John the Baptist has been murdered by the King and Jesus had gone in search of solitude. After feeding the crowd, Jesus sends everyone away: the disciples to the other side of the water, the crowds are sent home. Jesus goes up the mountain to be alone; to pray.
The disciples had given everything they had to the crowds and are now on the water; a dangerous place, far from land and battered by winds and waves. Jesus comes to them. They see him but do not recognize him and fear overtakes them.
Immediately Jesus tries to calm them, “Take heart,” he says, “it is I, do not be afraid.” When Jesus calls him, Peter gets in the water and moves towards Jesus and he is doing okay until he takes his eyes off of Jesus – he focuses on the wind, the waves and the water and he begins to sink. He cries out in fear and Jesus reaches out and touches him. The story concludes with Jesus asking Peter, “Why did you doubt?” One gets the impression from Jesus that walking on water is an ordinary thing that everyone does.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of how blessed the People of Israel are. In Paul’s eyes they don’t understand who Christ is – they are not connected to Christ. Paul says he would sacrifice his life and his own salvation if only they would/could recognize that Christ is their Lord, that Christ is everything.
We believe that God loves us. But sometimes we doubt. In our day to day life we see wonderful things; we are witnesses of God’s goodness. While we have not seen five loaves and two fish feed thousands, we have seen what generous people can do.
At the same time, we experience all sorts of struggles. We experience poverty, illness, job loss, racism, harsh judgment, abuse – we watch people we love suffer – we pray for miracles and like Elijah we are met with the silence of God.
We also experience people making sacrifices for us, we feel the power of love. What do we do with our experiences? How do we respond to a God who reaches out and lifts us up and then disappears? What do we with a God who calls to us and when we respond, meets us with silence? What do we do when God does not give us what we think God should give?
Sacred scripture suggests we pursue God; we look for God with everything we have – all our resources, all our strength.
2020 has not been the year we expected. Here we are in the middle of summer, with lots of uncertainty in our lives. What once was normal is not anymore. How do we move forward when there is so much change? What might moving forward look like for us?
For me moving forward means:
What will help me? Sacred scripture suggests that long journeys, waiting in darkness, in silence, engaging the storms and winds of my life, giving all that I am and stepping out of the boat when God calls my name are some of the pathways that will help me find life. God wants all of me. God calls forth everything I have – even the last loaf and fish I possess.
I might be frightened and sinking, overwhelmed by the winds, the waves and the water, the storms of life, but I am called to get out of the boat. I may be frightened, persecuted or threatened but I am called to walk with God. When I fall and when I fail, for I know I will, I can cry out to God and God will catch me!
God is present. This week I invite each of us to look for God’s presence in unexpected places – in the experiences of loss and grief, betrayal and abandonment, in darkness and silence and in confusion and uncertainty. Do not give up – God walks with us. We are not alone!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI