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Walk on Water


Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

CLICK HERE FOR THE AUDIO PODCAST (Thanks to the Holy Spirit, different than the text)

This Sunday’s gospel passage is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel.  Biblical accounts that parallel this week’s gospel portray a people ready to make Jesus a king after he performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  They did not understand that his kingdom was not of this world.

The situation must have been quite disturbing for two reasons.  First, Jesus sent his apostles off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee without him.  Perhaps he feared that they would get caught up in the worldliness of the people’s misguided euphoria.

Secondly, after Jesus was able to get away from the crowd, he went off to a lonely place to pray.  Today, we would call this departure a necessary sanity break from the insanity around us.  The apostles found themselves in a boat on their own on the Sea of Galilee, a body of water well known for intense, sudden and dangerous storms.

Jesus came to their hour of need.

“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” (Matthew 14: 24-25).

We all experience storms in our lives.  We must not be surprised that this life is a continual struggle.  Temptation, failure, difficulties, trials and tribulations are a normal part of our earthly existence.

To seek an easy and comfortable life without the challenge of difficulties is not realistic.

An example of someone who knew how to overcome difficulty can be found in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

In 1858 the Illinois legislature, using an unknown law, sent Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of Lincoln, although Lincoln had won the popular vote. When an understanding friend asked him how he felt, he said, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.”

Many times people think that God is unfair, so they stop going to church and stop praying altogether.  They seem to think that being religious is a ticket to a life free of any problems at all.

God never said that this life would be easy.  However, through his cross, Jesus gives meaning to suffering and his grace gives us the power to overcome the challenges of life.

This Sunday’s gospel narrative reminds us not to go it alone.

When we forget God through self-sufficiency and independence, we sink, just like Peter did.

With God’s help, all things are possible.

“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” (Matthew 14: 26-27).

All too often we become completely discouraged when trials and tribulations batter the boat of life.  We become so blinded by the difficulty that we think that God has abandoned us.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

We need to see God in the middle of the storm.  It may take some time for the storm to disappear, but he is there, he is always present.  Only through the eyes of faith can we see the loving presence of God in the middle of the tempest.

“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 toward Jesus” (Matthew 14: 28).

So many people are afraid to get out of the boat.  Past failures and present disappointments keep people frozen in time, unable to move on to a better life.

We must never be afraid of failure.

Success can only be achieved by taking risks.

We must not focus on the past; instead we should look forward with hope to a new beginning.

We must place all of our confidence in Jesus and walk on water.

A priest friend of mine shared with me a story that he had read about Thomas Edison.  Edison was a prolific inventor.  He invented over 1,000 things, but he is best known for inventing the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, the microphone, the storage battery and talking movies.

It was December 1914, and he had already been working for ten years on the storage battery.  This adventure had greatly strained his financial situation.  One evening, spontaneous combustion had broken out in the film room.  Within minutes, all the packing compounds, celluloid for records and film, and other flammable material were in flames.

Firefighters from eight surrounding towns arrived, but the fire was so intense and the water pressure so low, that the fire was out of control.  Everything was destroyed and Edison was sixty-seven years old.

Edison’s twenty-four year old son, Charles, searched for his father during the fire.  He finally found him, calmly watching the fire.  “My heart ached for him,” said Charles.  “He was sixty-seven, no longer a young man, and everything was going up in flames.  When he saw me, he shouted, ‘Charles, where’s your mother?’  When I told him I did not know, he said, ‘Find her.  Bring her here.  She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.”

The next morning Thomas Edison looked at the ruins of his life’s work and said, “There is a great value in disaster.  All our mistakes are burned up.  Thank God we can start anew”.  Three weeks after the fire, Thomas Edison delivered the first phonograph.

My dear friends, Jesus comes to you today and calls you by name.  He calls you to get out of the boat and to walk on water.