For the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – August 13, 2017

“Be it understood that those who are not found living as He taught are not Christian –
even though they profess with their lips the teaching of Christ.”
(St. Justin)
“Deeds come first, then the words.”
(St. Peter Claver)

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Trust in God in Days of Affliction.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading teach us that God’s presence in the gentle breezes and major storms of life calls us to place our trust in Him.  In Reading 2, Paul shares with us his grief concerning his Jewish brothers and sisters who have rejected the Messiah.

  • Reading 1 – 1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a      The Lord appears to Elijah in a whisper.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 85:9-14      The Lord is the source of salvation.
  • Reading 2 Romans 9:1-5      Paul speaks of the blessings that have come to the Israelites.
  • Gospel Matthew 14:22-33     Jesus walks on water, and the disciples acknowledge Him as the Son of God.

Reading 1.     1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a              (Coming of the Lord)

Context – Kings 1 & 2, records the events of the reign of Solomon (970 – 930 BC) and then the succeeding kings of Judah and Israel (930 – 588 BC). (When Solomon died, the 12 Jewish tribes – ie. the 12 sons of Jacob,  split into two separate Kingdoms – Judah, the southern Kingdom – made up of two tribes, and Israel, the northern Kingdom – made up of ten tribes.) After King Solomon, God no longer used the kingship to be the medium through which He governed His people but instead chose to use prophets for this function. Elijah was one of the most outstanding prophets and was from the northern Kingdom.

Today’s Reading – This nineteenth chapter of 1st Kings is the Elijah story which has close parallels with the story of Moses on the same mountain (the mountain of God – Mt. Sinai – a.k.a. Mt. Horeb). Both journey to the mountain to meet God; Moses while fleeing from the Egyptians, and Elijah while fleeing from Queen Jezebel. Elijah in his flight from the Queen, ends up in a cave in Mt. Horeb, in a state of a discouraged and broken man. God meets him there in a gentile and accepting manner. In and through this gentle experience of God’s presence, Elijah’s faith and hope are restored and he returns to his role as God’s prophet.

At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound (a voice, calm and soft. Elijah’s experience of the presence of God was not in those events popularly thought to describe divine power and to inspire awe (e.g. wind, earthquake, and fire), but rather in “a tiny whispering sound.”). When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave (Among the Orientals, to cover the face has the same import as when we remove our hats out of respect. Also, in this case, since Elijah knew that God was present, he covered his face because no one can look at God and live. Exodus 33:20 ).

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          “Then the LORD said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.””The Lord knows when we are in trouble/distress/affliction and in need of His help. This passage tells us to put ourselves in a state of trust in Him and be quiet and receptive to listening to Him. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and  help prepare yourself to listen to and help understand the Lord’s message. As the following Responsorial Psalm states –  “Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.”

Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 85:9-14                     (The Lord is the Source of Salvation)

Today’s Psalm –  This psalm announces peace and salvation for the faithful.

R. -Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
I will hear what God proclaims
(Hitherto the psalmist had been distracted by the thought of his people’s misery. – St. Augustine); the LORD — for He proclaims peace. Near indeed is His salvation to those who fear Him (See PAUSE, below), glory dwelling in our land.
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss
(God’s loyal kindness and truth will yield justice and peace for his people.). Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.
The LORD Himself will give His benefits; our land shall yield its increase
(God bestows grace upon us, then we can yield its fruit.). Justice shall walk before Him, and prepare the way of His steps (The holy John the Baptist shall prepare the way of the Lord.).
R. – Lord, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.     “fear Him”How to fear the Lord:
Psalm 34 states, to fear the Lord – “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit , depart from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it”.
– Discover Him, Learn about Him, Worship Him (devotion).             – Seek His will in all matters and act upon it (service).
– Be obedient to Him in both good and bad times.             – Love Him and give Him thanks.
– Reflect Jesus in our thoughts, words, and deeds (by our character, conduct, and conversation/ by our heart, deeds, and lips/ by our thoughts, purpose, and actions  Romans 6:18).             – Do justly, love kindness, be merciful, humble yourself, and walk humbly with your God.
– Tell others about Him.             – Hate evil.

The “fear of the Lord” is one of the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2).
“As a father has compassion on his children, the Lord’s compassion is on those who fear Him”. (Psalm 103:13)
“But the mercy of the Lord is everlasting upon those who hold Him in fear.” (Psalm 103:17)

Reading 2.     Romans 9:1-5                (Blessed be God)     

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – God’s conversion of St. Paul opened his eyes and helps him to see that Judaism is a preparation for the fullness of God’s revelation. Paul hopes all Jews would come to this conclusion and open their hearts to Jesus. Unfortunately, this is not happening. The rejection of Christ by his own people breaks Paul’s heart.  His grief is so deep that he is willing to be separated from Christ if this means that his people will accept Christ.

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ (Saint Paul is swearing an oath.), I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart (He is saddened at the spiritual condition of his fellow kinsmen.). For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption (God’s selection of them as His people), the glory (God’s presence with them), the covenants (the Old Covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David), the giving of the law (Ten Commandments), the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons – the heads of the twelve Tribes), and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ (the crowning gift, the Messiah), who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.           When we contemplate how grateful we are to God for all of His graces, mercy, and blessings that have been bestowed upon us, do we also include the things St. Paul mentions in this passage which is also part of our rich heritage?

Gospel     Matthew 14:22-33                (Jesus Walks on Water)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading –  After Jesus spends the day with the multitudes, He feels a need for quiet time.  So while He goes off to the mountain to be alone, He sends His disciples off to get into a boat and precede Him to the other side of the lake. During their journey across the lake, a big storm erupts. In Jesus’ time, a stormy sea is symbolic of chaos and evil which has the power to destroy people caught in its grip. In the midst of the storm, Jesus comes to His frightened disciples and tells them to “have courage.”

After He had fed the people (fed the 5,000), Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede Him to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee], while He dismissed the crowds. After doing so, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray (Jesus’ solitary nocturnal prayer is a model for all Christians – besides prayer in common, we also need time for personal prayer.). When it was evening He was there alone. Meanwhile the boat (the Church), already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it (In this scene the headwinds could represent the hostile forces of the world which will buck them every step of the way). During the fourth watch of the night (prior to dawn – between 3 and 6 AM), 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 (Literally “I am”; Jesus is possibly alluding to God’s self-revelation with Moses at the burning bush.); 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.” 

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          Trust in God in Days of Affliction  – The apostles overpowering fear that was caused by the rampant storm and Peter’s momentary distraction caused by the towering wind, both took away their focus/reliance upon Jesus. (Note – The storm and the wind are symbolisms for the trials, tribulations, and crosses that we have to bare in our daily lives.) Today’s passage helps us understand that apart from Him, we can do nothing. Thank God that it is possible to receive His salvation even though we at times get distracted or separated from His direction and power. All believers find their focus wandering at times, but some have strayed so far that it’s hard to see their way back.

If you discover your heart is loyal to something besides Christ, it’s vital to acknowledge that this has happened. Identify which attitudes or activities are drawing you away from Him. Then repent and get whatever help is necessary to set aside diversions, insecurity, worldly desires, or anything else that draws your attention away from the Lord.

Once the distraction is gone, refocus on Jesus by reading the Word, praying, learning from biblical messages, attending Church services, and spending time with godly friends who will encourage you. After living outside of God’s best for a while, it can be hard to discipline yourself to function as the Lord desires. But remember that those who abide in God will bear much fruit. (John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”.

Don’t delay. As Hebrews 12:1 urges, “lay aside every encumbrance” so you can run with endurance the race set before you. Acknowledge anything that is keeping you from living passionately and fully for Jesus Christ. Following His plan—in His strength—is the way to peace, joy, and contentment in life. Ask for His help and commit to action. There is nothing like living fully for God. (From Charles Stanley)

Catechism 301 – With creation, God does not abandon His creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

            “For You love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that You have made; for You would not have made anything if You had hated it. How would anything have endured, if You had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by You have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are Yours, O Lord, You who love the living.” (Wisdom 11:24-26)