August 10, 2014
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today's readings use rich imagery of the power and grandeur of the natural world
to illustrate the even greater glory of God revealed to us in Christ.
Matthew 14: 22-33
Nature imagery is widely used in the bible as in other literature contemporary
with the scriptures to convey an idea of the omnipotence and benevolence of God.
In order to appreciate how effective such descriptions can be, one need only
read the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis, or the story of
Noah and the flood, or peruse poetic texts such as Psalm 29, where the Lord is
manifested through the appearance of a terrible storm, or the final chapters of
the book of Job, where God reviews the mysteries of creation which are beyond
Turning to the first reading, Elijah the prophet was one of the most courageous
figures of the entire Old Testament, and so it is surprising that we find him
cowering in a cave on Mount Horeb as he awaits the appearance of the Lord. A
mighty wind rushes by, yet the Lord is not in the wind; then an earthquake
shakes the very ground on which Elijah stands, but God is not to be found in the
earthquake. Next a wildfire rages, yet the Lord is not to be seen in the
consuming flames either.
Elijah eventually does perceive the presence of the Lord in a "tiny whispering
sound" which relates to him that he is to complete his prophetic mission and
appoint a successor to carry this mission forward after his departure. Elijah
was wise enough to recognize that God is not bound by human ideas of what is
important or impressive, and that the Lord can make use of the simplest and
humblest means to reveal the most transformative and noble truths.
In the gospel we see that the elements of nature are subject to Jesus, who thus
demonstrates his divinity: to the astonishment of the disciples he walks on the
water of the Sea of Galilee and calms the stormy winds. We are as remiss as
Peter was however if we go no further than simple awe over what we have heard
Jesus' actions are not meant to amaze his audience, as though he were performing
a magic trick. Rather, here as elsewhere his miraculous gestures always point
to something beyond themselves: in this case they reveal his divine sonship
through his appropriation of the Father's words-"It is I; do not be afraid!"
often spoken by the Lord in Isaiah's prophecies-and through his mastery over
Jesus' gestures in this passage also point to his wish to share his divine glory
with his disciples, if only they would accept it. We see the intense desire of
the Lord to bring us into the fullness of his salvation when he says to Peter:
"O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" He would gladly give Peter
everything, yet what Jesus means to give can only be received when a person
comes to know him and then has faith in him.
As we see, Peter's faith falls short, and he ends up plunging into the waters of
the Sea of Galilee. Eventually of course he would place all his faith and trust
in Christ, and thereby experience the surpassing wonder of God's salvation,
which transforms human life in a manner that is far more wonderful than the
miracles which anticipate it.
Animated by the wisdom of Elijah and the faith that Peter would finally summon,
let us come to know Jesus as the Son and revealer of the Father, and thus be
able to say joyfully together with the disciples "Truly, you are the Son of
Fr. Edward Mazich, O.S.B.