Homily — 19th Sunday OT A 8/7/11
The Apostles were probably feeling pretty good about themselves at the beginning of this Gospel.
Just a few days before, they had come back from the very first mission Jesus sent them on, where they had gone out two by two to the towns and villages, and all of them were proud of the success they had on their own.
And then just earlier that day, the Apostles helped Jesus miraculously feed a crowd of 5000 families with 5 loaves and 2 fish, and the people went wild with admiration and enthusiasm for Jesus and the Twelve Men he had chosen, willing to give them anything they wanted.
So all twelve Apostles must have been in a great mood, must have felt on top of the world, must have felt invincible, that late afternoon in the spring, and probably rightly so.
And so Jesus, realizing how well the Apostles were advancing in the faith, said to himself “These guys are ready for major league discipleship.” And so Jesus blesses them with a major league trial.
Jesus makes the disciples get into the boat that afternoon, while Jesus himself dismisses the crowds, and when 6 pm rolls around he goes alone up a mountain to pray.
Little did the Apostles know that Jesus was deliberately sending them into the greatest, most terrifying trial of their lives so far.
The Apostles are not out to sea an hour when a major storm begins to threaten the boat. The literal Greek says the waves were “torturing” the boat.
Probably when this all started, morale being high and four of them at least being fishermen, they weren’t that worried.
And probably an hour into the storm, when some of them started to look concerned, one of the Apostles calmed everyone down by saying “The Lord’s just testing us, don’t worry, remember that other time Jesus was asleep in the boat with us and we almost drowned, and he calmed the waters? He’s up that mountain praying, he obviously see’s what we’re going through, he’ll stop this storm.
They all agreed, and kept battling the storm as they waited for Jesus or Mother Nature to end it.
But another hour went by, and Jesus didn’t end it, and then 2 hours went by, and then 3 hours, and then 4 hours and the storm only got worse and worse, and they forgot about Jesus and their great accomplishments, and began to despair that they would ever make it through this tempest.
Ten hours into this storm, in the fourth watch of the night, between 3 and 6 in the morning, Jesus comes, and even then, the apostles fear only grows worse and the storms only becomes stronger before Jesus calms the wind and the test is over.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this story of the storm at sea teaches us how Jesus at times tests us to help us grow in our faith.
He normally does so like he did with the apostles, after a period of consolation in our lives.
Life is going great, God is shining down on us, we are feeling rather proud of our accomplishments, and really close to Jesus, and then Jesus makes us get into that boat alone without him.
And then to test us, Jesus prays and sends a major storm, a major crisis our way. And days, months, maybe even years go by . . . and the storm, the crisis, is unrelenting.
And throughout this long storm we look for God, for Jesus, and he’s nowhere to be found, he doesn’t seem to hear our prayers at all.
(We see St. Paul by the way going through one of these major unrelenting trials of faith in the second reading. He says I’m not lying to you when I tell you I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart for the conversion of his fellow Jews.)
And it is only after we get to our breaking point, which is always further than we think we can go, it’s only when we have become powerless, and thrown overboard all that we were uselessly clinging to in this life for survival, only then does Jesus come to us in the midst of the storm.
And there, as the storm continues to rage, Jesus calls out to us and tells us to do as Peter did, to jump out of the boat we are still cling to for dear life, and walk on the waters of faith toward him, trusting that he alone will get us and our loved ones through this storm that is threatening us.
It is a leap of faith we’d never have taken had we not been in such a trial, and this leap of faith will later be seen by us as the best thing we ever did in life.
Perhaps some of us find ourselves in very stormy waters at this time, wondering when or if this storm will ever end.
Take courage, it will. Jesus will come in the end, and the wind will die down, and we who have weathered the storm will have grown in faith hope and love; We will be able to say more firmly of Jesus as the Apostles did afterwards, Truly you are the Son of God