19th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Gospel – Mt14:22-33

" Jesus’ Presence overcomes all Fears "

Preached by Fr Philip Heng, SJ at Church of St Ignatius – Singapore
on 7th August 2011

When a story of Jesus with His disciples is proclaimed to us or when we personally reflect on and pray about such a Gospel event, it is more than a story; it is “God’s story.”  It is the Holy Spirit trying to speak to our hearts to inspire and challenge us to live more fully in God’s ways.  This is because the Gospel event reveals to us who God is and how He relates and wants to relate to us.  And so, as I try to lead us to reflect on the Gospel event that we just heard proclaimed, I would like each of us to be asking ourselves, “What is Jesus trying to say to me about my life and daily living?”

    

We all have different forms of fears: some are mild, some are serious and some can even be terrifying.  The disciples who were on the boat were experiencing a life threatening situation.  The storm had whipped up huge waves that were threatening to drown them and as the Gospel says, “they were terrified . . . who would not be?”  It is not unusual for anyone of us to be facing the “storms of life.”  These “storms” come in many forms, for some it is a financial crisis, for others it is a break up in marriage or the losing of one’s religious and priestly vocation, still for others it could be resolving a family crisis of pain, anger and division or a discovery of a serious illness, or the sudden death of someone we love so dearly and the like. 

Whatever “fears” we may have in our lives, the “Good News” in today’s Gospel is that Jesus assures us that He will always be there for us and will be present in the midst of the storms of our lives.  However, many of us also know that even as we trust God and should trust God, when life’s situations threaten us, many of us react and respond differently.  

A few days ago, I heard of a true story of someone, let us call her Jane (not her real name).  Jane was converted just before she married her Catholic husband.  For six to seven years of their marriage, they tried to conceive a child, but couldn’t. One day their prayers were answered and they were overjoyed; Jane had conceived a baby girl.  However, the doctor broke the tragic news to Jane that her baby girl is abnormal and that the child would not survive the birth; and advised her to abort the child.

Jane was devastated and was torn between aborting her baby girl and the Catholic faith that condemns abortion as killing.  Jane said, “In moments like this, I wish I was not a Catholic because if I was not a Catholic, I would have no problems aborting my child.”  Her Catholic parent in-laws came to hear about this.  They were deeply saddened by the tragic news, but being very firm in their faith and having great trust in God they managed finally to convince Jane to keep her child.  They assured her that they will take care of the child and even adopt the child and that she need not even have to see her child if she does not wish to.

Meanwhile, everyone stormed heaven with their prayers.  Eventually, the child was born, but was found to be perfectly normal – a miracle baby; and today, a beautiful, intelligent and good girl.  Not only did God bless Jane and her husband with a normal child that is against all medical prognoses, God gave them two more children; a boy and a girl.  When we dare to trust God totally; when we dare to get out to the securities of the boat we are in and step on the threatening waves of our lives, miracles will surely happen!

To experience fears is to experience the finite nature of who we are as a human person.  However, we should remember that in today’s Gospel event, the Good News is that Jesus wants to assure you and I that He will always be there for us in the midst of the “storms of our lives.”  When Jesus appeared to the disciples amidst the storm and called out to them, “Have courage!  It is I!  Do not be afraid.”  It was Peter who recognised Jesus’ voice and called out to Him, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”  “Come” said Jesus.  It was only Peter got out of the boat and walked towards Jesus; the rest of the disciples remained in the security of the boat.

              

In times of trials and fears, it is good to ask ourselves, “Would we be like Peter who dared to ask Jesus, ‘Lord is that you . . . and if it is, tell me to come to You?’  OR would we simply continue to hold on to our fears and prefer to remain in the false securities of the boat we are in what it may be?

Jane’s parent in-laws too had fears when they decided to adopt their granddaughter who was expected to be born abnormal.  However, their faith in God was stronger and deeper than their fears of live.  Peter too had fears in the storm.  But, both he and Jane’s parent in-laws dared to trust God and get out of the securities of the boat and walked on the stormy waves that were threatening them.

If we reflect on our lives and on the lives of many Christian believers who profess that they believe in Jesus, many if not most people, like the other disciples would rather cling on to their tangible security of remaining in the boat.  While some may pluck up their courage and say, “Lord, I will get out of my boat, but let me put on my life jacket . . . just in case!?”  If we have the tendency to be overpowered by our fears in life, then let us remind ourselves again that in today’s Gospel, Jesus is asking you and I to trust Him more fully and more wholeheartedly.

Our fears are crippling and threatening only if we allow them to affect us that way.  Peter and Jane’s parent in-laws were able to go beyond their fears; real fears in life because their security in life was founded solidly on Jesus not on themselves.  The more solidly our life is founded on Jesus, the less fears we will have in our lives.

This being so, it is good that we ask ourselves the next pertinent question, “What is the true security of our life?”  When we are able to sleep peacefully and find life to be meaningful and fulfilling, “What are my securities built on?”  There are two types of securities in life: the really real security and the false security in life; “false” in the sense that they are not going to last forever.

                 

Let us next ask ourselves very basic questions of our securities in life.  If we say that having millions of dollars as our security, then a deeper reflection on life would reveal to us that the security of money will not be able to bring us security after we die because we cannot bring our wealth with us . . . unless we were able to use them fully in accordance to God’s Will and Ways while we are alive Second, if we were to say that our prestige, power and position whether we are a priest, parent or employer give me my security in life, then again a deeper reflection on life would reveal that this would also not last as one day I would get old and have to retire.  Third, if we even say that our security is built on our children and family, then while all of these are very good and important, and truly God’s blessings on us, the reality is still that one day our children will grow up and will leave home and build their own family, our spouse will die, and we too would one day have to leave this world; as we cannot live here forever.

          My brothers and sisters in Christ, in speaking about our securities in life, I am merely pointing out the realities of human living that we often tend to forget; there is a reality that is beyond what we have and think we treasure;there is the reality of God who is at the centre and the very depth of our lives who gives us everything and should be our everything in life.   Thus, our really real and true security is what is going to give us eternal happiness in life.  This means that our one and only security in life is Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour.  It is only when we are able to find Him as our only true security and build everything in our lives on Him, that we will find the true security and peace in life.

          This was precisely how Peter found true security in Jesus and dared to walk on the stormy water.  This was also how the parent in-laws of Jane found true security in their obedience to the Truth of the teachings of the Church and the peace of trusting that God would somehow provide an answer to the tragic dilemma of their granddaughter on the verge of being aborted.

     

You and I too are called by Jesus today, to make a decisive decision in the dilemmas of our life regardless of how threatening and tragic they may be.  Jesus is saying to you and I, “Come!”  Do we dare to get out of the boat of our securities in life and say to Him, “Lord, let me come to You because I want to trust You totally and fully with my life.”  Or, would we say to Jesus, “Lord, I will come to You, but let me put on my ‘life jacket” first . . . just in case?!”  Or would we sadly say to Jesus, “Lord, I don’t dare to get out of the boat” the storm is too threatening.  In other words we are saying to the Lord, “Lord, I cannot trust You with my life and what I treasure too much.”

Whoever we are, whatever we possess and whatever our life’s situation is, you and I have to make a personal response to Jesus now in this life while there is still time.  What would it be?

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

 

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