Comforting presence

By: Sister Michelle Rheinlander, OSB

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 10

1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a; Psalm 85:9,10,11-12,13-14; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

Each of our readings today focuses on people filled with fear and offers a common antidote — the healing presence of God personified in Jesus. His presence fights fear.

Elijah experienced excruciating fear because he defeated the pagan prophets at Carmel and incurred the wrath of Queen Jezebel. In today’s reading from 1 Kings, we hear that Elijah had no choice but to flee to a cave, where he took shelter and learned that God would be present in a new way — through special prophetic words that make God present to his people and thus overcome their fear. God’s presence fights fear!

In our second reading, we learn that Israel as a body did not enter the Christian community. Paul notes Israel’s many privileges — covenants, lawgiving, worship, blessings and more — that culminate in the human origin of the Messiah. Sadly Israel did not recognize the Christ who came from their midst, but the Gentiles did recognize him and shared in the destiny originally set aside for Israel.

Matthew’s account borrows from Hebrew traditions: Yahweh walks on water and rescues from the flood. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid,” and Matthew presents Jesus not simply as another wonder, but as the Son of God.

It is believers who make God present and who thus serve as agents of hope and courage. Believers are challenged to radiate God’s comforting presence and offset the fear and disillusionment that plague the world. People who make God present reach out to others in need and seek to improve their status, to comfort the terminally ill and dying, to lobby for peace and justice.

We must reach out to Jesus and be grasped by his saving hand. By this simple intimacy — teaching, touching, being saved — we are in a unique relationship with Jesus that we share with others in daily living. This is how we answer Jesus’ call to come and be saved.

A former educator and pastoral minister, Sister Michelle Rheinlander, OSB, is now engaged in a ministry of writing at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island.

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