Homily — 19th Sun. OT A 8/10/08

Homily — 19th Sun. OT A                        8/10/08

I don’t know if you were one of the 2.3 billion or so people who watched the Opening ceremonies of the Olympic games this past Friday evening, but for those who missed it, in my mind the most impressive part of the ceremony wasn’t the 40,000 fireworks going off all at once but rather the Parade of Nations.  About 10,000 Olympic athletes from the 204 competing countries marched in the parade, each country dressed in a distinctive uniform symbolic of their nation.

There was great joy and pride on the faces of all in the parade, and for good reason, as these men and women were being honored as the top athletes in their country.   The applause and attention given to those athletes, who had trained long and hard to get where they are now, was well deserved.

But probably the proudest people last night (apart from the parents) were the 10,000 trainers of these athletes, those who in the background coached these men and women and were essential in enabling them to make it all the way to the 2008 summer Olympics.

It was the trainer’s job to push their trainee to the limit; to give them work outs and regimens that were demanding and at times even painful, but would ultimately in the end earn them the gold silver or bronze medal, if they persevered in the training.

And in today’s Gospel, we see Our Lord Jesus doing the same thing to His disciples;  we see Jesus being a kind of Olympic training coach.

After their big miraculous dinner in the wilderness with the 5000 families was ended and the sun had gone down over the horizon, St. Matthew says that Jesus made the disciples get in a boat and precede Him to the other side.

No sooner do they leave Jesus when a violent storm whips up on the Sea of Galilee.   And for the whole night, from early evening to about 4 a.m., the disciples are getting drenched by heavy rain and crashing waves, their getting beaten down by the wind which is against them, and their doing all they can the whole night to keep from getting shipwrecked.

Now, Jesus, being fully God, knew full well that this storm would be brewing up, yet Jesus made them get on the boat and be threatened by that storm.   This is because it was all part of the disciples training in the Faith.

And just like the good Olympic trainer who will sometimes train his or her athlete almost to the breaking point but not beyond it; Jesus does the same with the disciples on the boat.  Jesus is monitoring the whole work out as He prays on top of the mountain, and when He sees that the disciples are at the end of their rope, He come’s walking on the water to call the practice to an end and calm the seas and bring the boat to the shore.

My brothers and sisters, if we wish to call ourselves Christians, disciples of Jesus, if we aspire to be worthy members of His Holy Church, then we need to realize that God calls us to a holiness and a practice of the virtues of not ordinary, but extraordinary, even Olympic standards.

And in order to get us to the standard of faith hope and charity we need in order to be the Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth, Jesus our trainer in holiness must at times put us into stormy waters to test our faithfulness.

We should never be surprised when Jesus challenges us and puts us in situations where trials are pouring down upon us like heavy rain and crashing waves; where the winds of popular opinion are against our Traditional Christian faith and morality; and where temptation is so strong it threatens to shipwreck our faith.  These things are all part of the “work out” Jesus our trainer has developed for us; and He will not test us beyond our ability.

And notice how St. Peter, who is aiming for the Gold Medal and will not settle for the Silver, in the midst of the stormy sea asks Jesus to give him a special extra faith work-out:  Lord, if it is you, bid me walk across the water.  Jesus bids him come, and encourages Peter as he takes those first steps out on the stormy sea.  When Peter begins to sink, Jesus lifts him up, and while he admonishes his trainee for his little faith, there’s also a tone of approval that Peter tried to go that extra mile.

May we weather with Faith the storms Jesus puts us in throughout our earthly life, so that we will be stronger Christians with each passing year; and so that by the end of our life, when we get to Heaven, we may march in that Eternal Parade with our fellow countrymen who with us have also run the race and fought the good fight, amid the cheers of angels and saints, with Jesus our trainer looking on from the bleachers, beaming with pride.

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