The Help we need from God may not be in the way we want, but in the way we need.

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HOMILY FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Readings:  1Kings 19:9,11-13/Rom. 9:1-5

Psalm:  85:9-14

Gospel:  Mt. 14:22-33

 

There is a rather infamous story about a US Marine during World War II who gets separated from his unit in the Pacific.  While searching for his troop, he could hear the enemy coming closer and closer.  He went up a nearby mountain where there were a set of caves along its side.  The caves were small enough for him to crawl in and try to hide from the enemy.  Once he took stock of his situation, he realized that once the enemy started to inspect the hill, his life would be over.  This bunch did not take prisoners.

So he did the only thing he could do.  He asked God for help.  As the troops came closer to his cave, he thought that his time had come. Well so much for God’s help, he thought.  Looks like I am going to see him sooner than I planned.  As he was waiting, he saw a spider start to build a web in the entrance of the cave.  Slowly the spider set one strand over another as the web is starting to cover the entrance.  The Marine was beside himself.  He wanted God to give him a brick wall.  Instead, He gave him a spider web.  This must be some sort of Divine Joke, he thought.

The enemy made its way up the mountain to the caves.  They started to look into each one of them, shooting at anything that moved.  Finally they came to his cave.  The Marine got his rifle in position and got ready.  Before he could pull the trigger, he saw the feet of the enemy turn around and make their way down the mountain.  As he started to wonder why, he looked again at the spider’s web.  He then realized that the spider’s web made the cave look like nothing had entered in it for some time.  The Marine began to ask God for forgiveness, understanding that God’s blessings comes in the smallest gifts, but are stronger than any structure built by Man.

When Elijah went to a cave in Mt. Horeb, he was in a similar frame of mind as the Marine.  In the First Reading today from the First Book of Kings, Elijah was running away from the being killed by the King of the Northern Kingdom, Ahab and his wife, Jezebel.  He fled their kingdom and found his way to Mt. Horeb and hid. The word of God came to Elijah and told him to stand outside the cave, for God will be passing by.

Now, if you knew someone who is mighty and powerful was coming by, you would think they would come with some sort of a flourish.  First came a strong wind that took down boulders and felled trees.  God could have come that way; but Elijah did not see Him in the wind.  Next came an earthquake that split the ground around him.  God could have come that way; but Elijah did not see God in the earthquake.  Then there was a fire that consumed the mountain.  God would have surely come in fire, for he came to Moses in a burning bush.  But Elijah did not see God in the fire.

Then after the wind, after the quake and after the fire, there came a whisper.  And in that whisper, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went to the front of the cave.  That whisper was God.  Elijah was in His presence and spoke to God directly.  After they talked, God gave Elijah his commands to continue his mission to bring God’s message to the Israelites.

Whenever we try to get an image of God’s majesty, we sometimes try to gain an image that we want to see, but that is not necessarily what God wants us to see.  So, when we do get a glimpse of God’s majesty, it becomes almost too much to take.  When Peter saw Jesus walk on the water toward the boat the disciples were in, he was in awe.  When Jesus asked him to come to him on the water, he must have been ecstatic.  Here he was coming to Jesus, on the water, without a boat.  But just then the wind came up and the water began to hit his feet and ankles.  He and the disciples in the boat had thought at first he was a ghost.  These doubts came back into his mind.  His thoughts got in the way of seeing God and he began to sink.  He cried out to Jesus, much like the Marine cried out to God, to be saved.  Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him back up.  His lack of faith, that faith of having God revealed to him, caused him to fall.  Only with the help of Christ did he, the disciples in the boat, and us, see the true image of God:  not how we think it is, but what it truly is.

It is in the things that we take for granted is where God comes to us.  When we come to the altar to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we do not receive him in the form of a Roquefort-and-Almond Sourdough and a ’52 Chateau Montrose, but in a simple piece of bread (made of flour and water) and wine made from only grapes.  From these simple elements, the presence of Christ comes to us.  It is not just some magic trick or sleight of hand, but a reality of Jesus coming to us every time we come to Mass.  God reveals himself to us in the simplest things, because that is how He wants us to see him as so we can experience his love for us.  When we have seen Him in the simplest, then the grandest of love will be with us for all of eternity.  Our image of God shows our anxieties and limitations.  God’s image to us shows His immensity and care for all of His creation.  When we come to see that image revealed to us, then we can understand the task he has for us to care for each other as He cares for us.

This image of God’s love for us is expressed in a prayer by St. Columba of Iona.  The prayer goes like this:

Alone with none but You, my God,

I journey on my way.

What need I fear when You are near,

O Ruler of night and day?

More safe am I within Your hand

Than if a host should round me stand.

My life I yield to Your decree,

And bow to Your control in peaceful calm,

For from Your arm

No power can wrest my soul.

The child of God can fear no ill,

God’s chosen dread no foe;

We leave our fate with You,

and wait Your bidding when to go.

It’s not from chance our comfort springs.

You are our trust, O King of Kings.[1]

 

It is this kind of trust that Peter cried out for to Jesus in the Sea; it is what Elijah received in the hearing of the whisper; it is what the Marine witnessed in that spider making their web; and it is what you and I have to strive for each and every day.  All we have to do is remember that how we see God is not always how God reveals Himself.  Then when we do, then we can truly see the image of God in not just the great, but the small as well.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Elijah, Jesus and the Marine went up to the mountain to connect with God. Why do mountains have such a connection with speaking with God?
  2. When were the times that you were like Peter and were afraid of the world so much so you could not see God’s grace and mercy?
  3. The Psalmist today asks “Lord, let us see your kindness and grant us your salvation.” When was the last time you saw God’s kindness and in what form was it?

[1] Sanna, Ellyn, “The Otherworld” in The Winged Man:  The Good News According to Matthew (McIntosh, Kenneth, ed.)  Vestal, New York:  Anamarcha Books, 2017, p. 182.

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