Faithful Jesus shows us there is no need to fear
By: By Sharon Priester
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 7
1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a; Psalm 85: 9,10,11-12,13-14; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33
Fear and doubt. How many times has fear welled up inside of you? Maybe a fear of taking on something new. How about doubt? Have you ever doubted that what you are doing is the right thing to do? The readings this week call our attention to fear and doubt and how God speaks to us during these times.
In the first reading, Elijah is up on the mountain in a cave. Why is he there? Fearing for his life, he fled first to the desert where he prayed to the Lord to take his life. Then an angel came to him and told him he was to go on a journey. This journey took 40 days and 40 nights and brought him to Horeb, the mountain of God. While on Horeb, the Lord came to him and told him to stand outside the cave and wait for the Lord to pass by.
Elijah being very faithful, no longer fearful, waits as strong and heavy winds pass by, followed by an earthquake and fire. Then there was “a tiny whispering sound.” Elijah recognized this sound as the Lord, hid his face and stood at the entrance of the cave, ready to do whatever God asked him to do.
In the Gospel, Jesus, having fed 5,000 people, went up to the mountain to pray as his disciples set out in a boat. Sometime between 3 and 6 a.m., the fourth watch of the night, Jesus walks toward the disciples’ boat, which is being tossed around in the water. The disciples saw Him coming and, thinking it was a ghost, were terrified. Jesus says to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
Peter, seeing Jesus, also wants to walk on the water. Jesus calls to him and Peter begins to walk on the water toward Jesus. Frightened by the strength of the winds, Peter begins to sink and cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reaches out to him and saves him while rebuking him: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
WE ARE NOT ALONE
In our lives, we too are like Elijah and Peter — fearful and not trusting that God is there for us. We feel like we are all alone, sinking into oblivion.
Thirteen years ago, I had that sinking feeling and was very fearful. I was scheduled for a biopsy and had no idea what was to follow, hoping that the doctor would not mention the “C” word. I prayed and prayed and asked others to pray for me, asking to be saved from what I thought would be sure death.
Just as Jesus calms the storm and his disciples’ fears, he reaches out and pulls us up whenever we call out to him. All we have to do is have faith and trust in him. Jesus, because of his great love for us, will lead us to the Father.
As you can see, I survived after going through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. God was there for me all the way. I saw him in the stranger who shared her story of cancer treatment over breakfast one morning. I saw God’s love in the cards and messages from so many people, the support of so many people in my parish and most especially in the love, care and concern of my family.
GOD IS THERE FOR US
We can hear the Lord if we listen as Elijah and Peter did. How often do you hear the Lord speaking to you? Maybe it is through another person who shares their experience of God’s presence in their life. Perhaps you hear God speaking to you as you read and reflect on the Word of God. As you pray each day, maybe you will hear God speaking to you in “a tiny whispering sound.”
When fearful moments come upon us, we can go to a quiet place to find solace and peace, whether it is the mountain, in our churches or our room. In those times of fear and doubt, we can talk to God and know that he is there with us, reaching out to us and leading us to eternal life.
Many years ago, I heard the song, “Be Not Afraid.” When I am fearful, I reflect on the words of the refrain of this song and know that God is there for me, taking care of me. “Be not afraid, I go before you. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest.” Maybe those words will also bring you comfort.
SHARON PRIESTER is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.