19th Sunday of the Year

We have heard the expression ‘timing is everything’. The storm which takes place in the Gospel and the struggle to deal with it is also crucially timed to take place at the fourth watch of the night – in other words during the darkest hour before the dawn.

The storm is an allegory for the storms in our lives – financial, emotional, mental, physical, family, stormy relationships, and even spiritual ups and downs. We are in the middle of an economic storm and the Church is at its darkest hour. But the storms in our own personal individual lives – what are they? For each of us at present, there is perhaps an area of difficulty and challenge. Like the disciples we are making no headway. All is dark, everything is against us.

But help is at hand – in the person of Christ. At first it is hard to see and recognise that He is with us. But He appears and invites us to have courage. We are invited it seems, like Peter, to do the seemingly impossible. But like Peter we so often fail and sink, because we are distracted and discouraged by trying to achieve the impossible by our own poor efforts alone, we doubt that Christ’s power can sustain us. We are in desperate need lest we sink. Pride comes
before a fall.

Christ appears to us – when all seems lost when we make a huge act of faith, like Peter, Christ does not literally appear to us but we find Him in prayer (sometimes in prayer of desperation when there is no-one to turn to) or He may send someone to us in the support, guidance and kindness of a friend, or He may speak to us in a book we read that conveys to us what we need to know, in Scripture for example, or in quiet reflection on what is taking place. God was to be found in the gentle breeze in the first Reading.

Christ says very little, seventeen words in total in fact. These words are hugely challenging and comforting, and worth pondering over as we reflect on past storms. They may help to brace us for storms to come:

‘Courage, it is I, do not be afraid. Come. Man of little faith, why did you doubt?'
These words can have a calming effect on our lives, in our uncertainties.
It is when we take our eyes off Christ, however, that we sink. Looking elsewhere, like Peter, trusting in ourselves alone, we are sure to get frightened, and we are sure to fall and fail (again).

Christ calms all fears, especially concerning things that are outside of our control.
Another point worth pondering is the timing and location of the miracle in the Gospel.

Today’s Gospel passage from last Sunday’s St Matthew’s Gospel follows closely upon the multiplication of the loaves and fish. Timing is everything. Immediately after Jesus performs His greatest miracle with bread (in the feeding of the 5,000) He performs His greatest miracle with His Body – walking on water. This prompts us to think that if Jesus can do ‘what he likes’ with bread and His body – then, surely the changing of bread into His Body is a logical conclusion for believers who have doubts over the doctrine of transubstantiation and what we believe with the eyes of faith in the Holy Eucharist.

The disciples’ attitude in the boat was one of recognition followed by adoration. Such should be our attitude in our reception of Jesus in Holy Communion.
In prayer then, in union with Him in these precious moments after Holy Communion we can hear Him repeat to us: ‘Courage, it is I, do not be afraid. Come. Man (woman) of little faith, why did you doubt?’

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