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Saturday, August 9, 2014

Homily for 19th Sunday of OT


Fear is often where God is
Our Holy Father receives a lot of accolades for his stunning use of symbolic action to teach and preach the Gospel.  The actions, it is said, speak louder than words.  I wonder, do we often listen to his words?  Do you think he chooses them with any less care and concern?  I think we should read what he has written and hear what he says.  I wonder how many people in the world, if they really listened to what Pope Francis says, would be shocked and afraid by what he asks of us?  What he is emphasizing and what he challenges of us is not always easy to stomach:
- "How I would like a Church that is poor and for the poor!"
- We must "get out of ourselves and go toward the peripheries."
- (at Lampedusa) "the globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!" 
- "It is not a good strategy to be at the center of a sphere. To understand we ought to move around, to see reality from various viewpoints."  
- "In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples"

Paul says he is sad for the Jews - those who should have "gotten it" and were once a part of God's great plan but turned away when they were challenged. Perhaps he, like Pope Francis, would be saddened by those Catholics who treat the church and their faith like a time card (in and out and back to real world) or like  aspirin (take a few only when you need them).

I can become afraid with the Pope's challenges.  All of us have a limit to our comfort zones.  Mine is short in many ways.  Sometimes I feel courageous but in other areas not at all.

I can go to a hospital, kneel down and hold the hands of a dying person even when they might be very contagious.  I can kiss the forehead of a 70-something woman waiting for cancer to take her home to Jesus. But I have a whole lot of trouble giving a holy card to the person at the cash register or saying "I'll pray for you" to a stranger.  Or going to that person that doesn't look all-together and speaking to them face to face, learning their story, bringing up how God can help them.  That's hard for me, and we all have things that are challenging demands.

Then I think of what Christians in other areas have to go through and I feel like my challenges are nothing in comparison.  The Christians in the Iraqi city of Ninneveh are leaving without food, water, or money in order to keep their lives.  Churches are bombed and people are threatened with death for becoming Christians in Nigeria.  No matter where we are and what we are doing, there's always the temptation to give in to fears.  But we were not given a Spirit of fear.

But fear is present in today's readings, and God is there alongside it. Elijah is literally running for his life away from an army, and now God calls him to go back and carry out His work again without fear. In the Gospel, the apostles carry out the challenging demand to cross the sea against the storm, their fears bring them the greatest consolation.  In the midst of those fears, knowing that Christ has called them to it, they find Him right there in it.

Jesus says "do not be afraid."  God is with you in your fears; He is greater than them; He is in control of the chaos we often experience. When doing His will is difficult, look around and find Him and listen to His sometimes still, small whisper that says "do not be afraid!"
What storms do you have in your life right now?  Find Jesus in them, and like Peter put your faith in Him, then the storms won't matter anymore.

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