FIRST READING (Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord.)
A reading from the first Book of Kings (19:9a, 11-13a)
At the mountain of God, Horeb, Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter. Then the Lord said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire—but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (85:9,10, 11-12, 13-14)
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation. (Ps 85:8)
I will hear what God proclaims; the Lord—for he proclaims peace. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. (R)
Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven. (R)
The Lord himself will give his benefits; our land shall yield its increase. Justice shall walk before him, and prepare the way of his steps. (R)
SECOND READING (I could wish that I were accursed for the sake of my own people.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (9:1-5)
Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Cf. Ps 130:5)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for his word. (R)
GOSPEL (Command me to come to you on the water.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (14:22-33)
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” — The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“Take courage! It is I. Be not afraid… COME!”
Intro: St. Peter is more prominent in Matthew’s Gospel than in any other. There are, in fact, three distinct Petrine episodes in Matthew’s Gospel that revolve only around Peter: the promise to Peter (you are Peter…), the story of the Temple tax, and today’s episode of walking on water. In these stories, Peter’s faith is a gift from God that is tested by suffering and doubt, only to then be strengthened by Jesus. Let us pray that when God tests our own faith and doubts, we will be open to receive that same grace Peter received to also be strengthened.
WHERE do we find the Lord in our daily life? This is a question many have asked.
A visitor once came to St. Teresa of Avila, a great mystic, and asked, “How should I picture God when I pray?” This is a way of asking, “Where can I find God when I pray?” The answer that St. Teresa gave may help each of us today: “Picture him LOOKING AT YOU.” For the lesson of today’s readings is an important one for each of us – Christ is indeed looking at us, at each one of us. His knowledge of each of us is PERSONAL, his concern for each of us is PERSONAL, and his call to each of us is PERSONAL. If we but open our eyes, our ears, our minds and our hearts – Jesus can be found, recognized, and responded to.
The Gospel today that we just heard is an eloquent treatment of that notion.
In many places in Scripture, the SEA, a stormy, unruly, unpredictable and fearful sea, is used as a symbol of the world, of life without God.
The Apostles have been separated from Christ – he tells them to get into the boat and cross “to the other side” while Jesus remains behind. They are now alone in the boat, “out to sea” and this sea without Christ is stormy and chaotic. It is so powerfully stormy that they fear they will be overcome by it and drown. Then Christ is pictured as mastering the storm. He literally walks over it.
Jesus appears in this stormy sea and says “Take courage, it is I!” (Greek, ego eimi, the divine revelation formula, followed by the wonderful phrase, “do not be afraid!”
Peter sees Christ looking at him through the storm, and becomes confident that together with Christ, he too would be able to overcome the chaos that seemed to surround him. Peter challenges Jesus, “Lord, tell me to come to you!” And so, he did – he held out his hand to Peter and says, “COME!”
And at this moment, Matthew describes beautifully something at least of what St. Paul would later call the contradiction, the foolishness of Christianity. BEFORE YOU CAN WALK ON WATER, YOU GOTTA GET OUT OF THE BOAT! Before Peter could benefit from Christ’s power, he would have to step out of whatever has been holding him up until then, he would have to risk walking away from what seemed to be so safe and secure and reasonable. He would have to finally take “a leap of faith.”
And for each of us here today, too, that is the hard part. Getting out of the boat. Putting aside the false dependencies, the securities, all the ways that we think we can make ourselves immune from chaos.
Materialism is a popular boat. What could be a better or safer barrier against the chaos than money and the things and the power that it can buy?
We are all caught in storms of life: whether those storms have to do with children, with our marriage, with our job and finances, with our health, with emotional problems and fears or dependencies, with our work or with people around us, even with the existential angst of this time of the pandemic. Our instinct when the storms come is to think that God has abandoned us. The Gospel teaches us that the Lord is with us EVEN IN THE STORM.
The storms of life are a time when many people separate themselves from prayer, from the Church, from their fellow Christians – and they try to go it alone. Yet, such storms are precisely the times when we need to reach out to the Lord and be more constant in prayer, and gather more frequently with fellow believers and live the Gospel more faithfully.
Often, we focus on the storm and the size of the waves – not on Jesus. We look only to ourselves, not to the Lord, and like Peter, we begin to sink. But Jesus is there, through the life of the Church, reaching out to us in the storm.
Matthew’s intricate symbolism this weekend of the chaotic sea tossing us around in a fragile boat caught in a storm is clear and eloquent. CHRIST IS NEAR. He is standing at the edge of our own personal storm, calling us, beckoning us, reaching out his hand. COME!
But in order to respond, we must ignore the storm that envelopes us, look down in the boat that is holding us, recognize it, then – looking into the eyes of Christ step out – COME! In that critical moment, we find the faith and courage to climb out!
Celebrant: As God’s faithful people, let us make our prayers looking to Jesus Christ. As he encouraged the wavering faith of St. Peter, so we know he is always with us, his hand outstretched to strengthen us and raise us up.
READER: For the household of God on earth, visibly united around the true successors of Peter and the apostles, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That God’s proclamation of peace may be a reality for the nations on this week commemorating the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombings that ended World War II, that kindness and truth may meet, and justice look down from heaven, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That we may not falter or fail in our faith when we face the storms of life around us, and may we be alert and gently supportive of those whose faith has weakened, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For courageous faith in Christ when we are victims of fear, and with special prayers for the Catholic Maronite community and people of Lebanon at this time, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those who have asked for our prayers, and for our beloved family members and friends who have departed and the bereaved who mourn for them, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Lord God, your Son leads us on the way of peace. As you receive these prayers we present, grant us a strong faith and an abiding trust in your Son, our Redeemer, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.