Moving from fear to faith, finding God

Sharon Priester

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Aug. 13

1 Kings 19:9a,11-13a; Psalm 85:9,10,11-12,13-14; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-23

In this week’s first reading from 1 Kings, we hear about Elijah, a man many of us would have envied. He had a deep faith in God and was able to face down the prophets who were followers of Baal. He did not think himself to be successful, however. He fled to Horeb. There, he found shelter in a cave.

During the night, the Lord said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord. The Lord will be passing by.” He was overcome by fear. I know I would be very fearful, not really knowing what to do. But Elijah stood at the opening of the cave when “he heard a tiny whispering sound” and knew in his heart it was God.

A voice asked him, “Why are you here?” He answered that he had been defending the Lord and zealots were after him. The voice then told him to forget his fears and doubts and go back to Damascus. Elijah listened to God, placing these words on his heart. He was a man of faith, ready to follow whatever he was told to do.

A STEADYING HAND

In the second reading, Paul, also a believer, is expressing his frustration, afraid that the people’s faith in God would be diminished. Already many of them, committed Jews, because of their unbelief, had rejected Jesus as the savior. This brought great sorrow to Paul. He reminded them, the Israelites, that Jesus loved each of them and was willing to give up everything for them. “I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart,” he says.

He wondered what was going to happen to the people who rejected Christ. Didn’t they know that the true source of grace is God, “Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever”?

In the Gospel, Jesus is praying on the mountain in the evening. His disciples are in a boat and have gone to the other side of the lake, when a storm arises and tosses the boat around on the waves. Fear raises its head. The disciples look out over the lake and see what looks like a ghost walking on the water toward them. It was not a ghost, but Jesus, who said, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Seeing the Lord, the disciples overcame their fear and welcomed him.

Peter tests Jesus by asking him to “command” Peter to go to Jesus on the water. Jesus calls out “Come!” The wind gets stronger as Peter got out of his boat, however, and he begins to sink. “Lord, save me,” he cries out in fear. Jesus stretches out his hand, saying “O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Those who witnessed this paid homage to Jesus, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

MORE PRAYER, LESS FEAR

Fear and faith are opposites. When we pray, we build up our faith and diminish our fear as we put our trust in God. More prayer, less fear. Peter was fearful, but, when things got frenzied, he put his trust and faith in Jesus to save him. To this day, Jesus continues to be with us, ready to stretch out his hand to save us as he saved Peter. To give us more courage, less fearfulness.

There are many times in our life that our faith is shaken. We might become fearful, not sure what is happening and possibly questioning “Where are you God?” This may lead us to a time when we realize that God is with us and helping us through our ordeal, even though we may be unsure where we are going or what we are to do.

We might try to find a place, a quiet place, where we can hear the voice of God — the tiny whispering sound, even though the winds are blowing around us in every direction. This spring, I found my quiet place in our church, sitting quietly in a pew, focusing on Christ on the cross and how he died for me, for all of us. Maybe you have a quiet place you can go to.

Maybe you have had a feeling that your boat is or was in a storm and in danger of sinking. What did you or could you do to stay afloat? How can you help others stay afloat?

Some questions for thought: What helps you to quiet yourself so you can hear the voice of God? How did you see God today? How can you share your love of God today, tomorrow and the many days that follow?

SHARON PRIESTER has served as a parish catechist and director of religious education, Bible study leader, RCIA team member and coordinator, and regional director of religious education for the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

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