Scripture Readings, August 13, 2023

August 13, 2023

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kings 19:9a; 11-13a

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

Sunday’s Gospel passage has always been a great source of consolation as well as a call to follow and trust in God.

First, I think this Gospel passage is about the power of prayer. At the beginning of the passage, we hear how Jesus gives us an example of prayer. “(Jesus) went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening, he was there alone.” Do you pray? Do you pray by yourself? When I was in seminary, a priest told us that he loved to celebrate Mass and that Mass was his prayer and only form of prayer. I was sad to hear him saying that, because that priest did not have an individual daily moment of prayer with God. Please do not take me wrong — this priest has a strong sacramental prayerful life. But, like this priest, I think a lot of people love to pray in community, which is very important and necessary, but they do not spend time in individual prayer with the Lord. “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matthew 6:6) Like it says in Catholic Theology, “both … and” — we need both communal and personal prayer.

I like the Gospel details of the traumatic experience of the disciples: their boat “was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it”; “When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said, and they cried out in fear.”

I think we can relate to the disciples. We might be terrified by the “waves,” “winds” and “ghosts” in our life. Illnesses, financial difficulties, family divisions, death of loved ones, unexpected health diagnoses, unemployment, etc. But like the disciples, we need to cry out to our Lord and Savior.

“At once, Jesus spoke to them, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’” Jesus always listens to our prayers, and he always reminds us that he is with us, that he is God and that nothing is impossible for him. (Luke 1:37)

One of my favorite saints is St. Peter, and I have a huge devotion to him. I love how Peter is so bold in his prayer: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Don’t you think Peter’s request is a crazy prayer? Let’s briefly look at Peter’s request. Peter could have asked for Jesus to calm the sea, or for the wind to die down, or to take the disciples’ fears away, or for strength to keep the boat from sinking. Instead, Peter asked Jesus to make him walk on water. In other words, Peter is asking Jesus to make him do what Jesus is doing. What is even more amazing about Peter’s crazy request is Jesus’ simple but powerful answer, “come.” And Peter was able to do the “impossible”: “Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.”

Peter’s seemingly crazy request is met by Jesus’ amazing and generous invitation. Maybe you started thinking, “Good for Peter, but he later started to sink” or “That invitation was only for Peter, not for me.”

Please don’t let doubts enter into your heart. The invitation that Jesus extended to Peter is the invitation that he gives to all of us. Jesus invites us to walk on water, not by our own merit and power, but by his grace. You don’t believe me? Jesus extends the invitation with different words in the Gospel of John: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do and will do greater ones than these.”

“When (Peter) 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.” It is easy for me to write to you asking you not to doubt, to trust in the Lord, but to tell you the truth, sometimes I doubt and don’t trust the Lord.

That is one of the reasons I have a great devotion to St. Peter, to remind me that even when I doubt, even when I don’t trust the Lord, Jesus will help me because he loves me.

So, when doubts come, when the “wind” is strong against you, like Peter, cry out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus is right next to you always; he will immediately stretch out his hands to secure you.

Jesus may ask you, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” but he will remind you to “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” He will once more invite you to do the “impossible” with him, because “Truly, (Jesus is) the Son of God.”