19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The context of today’s gospel story is important. The disciples were on a boat in the middle of the lake at night. Three words are underlined: boat, lake and night.
- Night stands for darkness. The darkness can be seen as the darkness we face in life as we go through various challenges and difficulties.
- The boat as a symbol of the Church.
- The lake as a symbol of the world.
So the context of this story reveals that the message is one for all of us: experiencing the darkness of life, remaining in the Church, living in the world
Today’s gospel calls us to be aware of the various forms of darkness which we may be experiencing in our life. It may be the darkness of sin, selfishness, self-centeredness; the darkness of pain and suffering, of illness and affliction; the darkness of guilt and regret about the past; the darkness of worry and anxiety about the future; the darkness of insecurity, of uncertainty and depression; the darkness of anger and bitterness, of resentment and unforgiveness; the darkness of the distorted values, of materialism and consumerism; the darkness of poverty and misery, of injustice and oppression; the darkness brought by a cruel, repressive government.
Just as he did that night on that lake, Jesus comes to us in the midst of this darkness in our life. Sometimes when the Lord comes to us in the darkness we encounter, we are immediately frightened by him. Just like the disciples, we fail to recognize the Lord Jesus who comes to us –instead, we see a ‘ghost’. It is not so much that we are frightened by God himself. Rather, we can easily become frightened by God’s will and what he asks of us. We are afraid because we think we are not ready to accept and to do his will for us –because it is not what we want for ourselves. We are afraid because he seems to be asking too much from us. Is it greater self-denial or heavier cross? Is it radical change or genuine conversion? Is it a part of us or all of us? Is it letting go or taking a leap in the dark? Is it following him on the way of the cross?
God’s will always calls us to selfless giving and sacrificial love. At times, this can be hard to accept. But when we remain in faith, our Lord will gently say to us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” His will is nothing we should be afraid of. We should seek to embrace it with full confidence and trust. This may be challenging at first, but with faith and trust in him, his will leads us to a life of the utmost fulfillment.
Today’s gospel teaches us that the Lord is with us even in the storm. The Lord is on the boat, sailing with his Church. Through the Church, through the Sacraments, through our time of prayer, the Lord says to us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Sad to say, the storm is the time when many people separate themselves from prayer, from the Christian community, from fellow Christians and they try to go at it alone. Yet, those are precisely the times when we need to reach out to the Lord and be more constant in prayer, celebrate and receive the Sacraments more frequently, and live the Gospel even more faithfully. Like Peter in the gospel story, we take our focus away from Jesus. We look only to ourselves, not to the Lord. We fix our eyes on other things; we dwell too much on our problems and hardships. And when we do that, we begin to sink. But Jesus is there, through the life of the Church, reaching out to us in the storm.
Reflect, today, upon whatever our Lord may be calling you to do right now in your life. If at first it seems overwhelming, keep your eyes fixed on him and know that he will never ask of you anything that is too difficult or impossible to accomplish. God’s grace is always sufficient for us. And God’s will is always worthy of full acceptance and trust.
Let us end with this Prayer for Trust composed by St. Ignatius of Loyola: O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen.