19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fear and Faith
Both the first reading and the Gospel given to us by the Church this Sunday teach us something of the Lord’s logic, something that does not match our human way of thinking at all. We find, in both passages, the way in which the Lord wishes to reveal Himself. In the first reading, we hear that the Lord shows Himself to Elijah not in the fire or earthquake, but in the still small voice. In the Gospel, Christ calls Peter out onto the water, where Peter will have to ignore the wind and the waves in order to reach the Lord.
Peter, of course, gets distracted from the face of Christ, and as He is absorbed by all the chaos around Him, He begins to sink. The upheaval of the outside world breaks His focus on the Lord, and the immediate result is the inability to walk closer to Him. Yet it is not simply the external storm that sinks Peter. He carries a storm within himself as well, as we can see from other moments in his life. We will in fact see during the Lord’s Passion that it takes much less than wind and rain to frighten Peter- one question from the servant girl of the high priest leads him to deny Jesus. This is possible because he is not calm and settled in spirit, assured of the Lord’s love and care. Because his soul is still tossed about by doubts, anything external can bring him to a fall.
So also with us. Christ invites us to believe more deeply in His love and providential care, and so to possess an interior calm. This peace of soul is that which allows us to quiet the ravening voices of the ever-insistent world, and listen instead to the quiet voice of divine wisdom. We were meant to engage the stormy world around us with the love of Christ, not be dragged around by its turbulent whims and fears. For this reason we must ask and allow Jesus to quiet the storm within each of us by His grace, so that we might listen with love for His words.
Furthermore, this Gospel reminds us that we, as Christians, do not consult the storms and loud noises of the world when seeking wisdom. The Lord does not often dwell in that which is wild and tumultuous, in the issues of the moment, in trends, panics, slogans, or movements. His quiet, sovereign voice speaks to those who seek Him for His own sake. The Lord does have something to say to all of the trials, preoccupations, and crises of the present moment, but He does not often reveal Himself to those consumed by the noise of the world’s storm. He is the God of eternal peace, not of rebellion. If we refuse to turn aside from Christ to lose ourselves in the world’s madness, we will find ourselves uniquely able to bring divine help to bear on the world’s needs, and without losing the peace that unites us to the One who alone lasts.
Fr. Joseph Rampino