Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (José Antonio Pagola)

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In the midst of the crisis

It is not difficult to see in Jesus’ disciples’ boat, tossed about by the waves and overcome by a strong headwind, the figure of today’s Church that is threatened from without by all kinds of adverse forces and tempted from within by fear and little faith. How do we read this Gospel account from the perspective of the crisis in which the Church today seems to be shipwrecked?

According to the evangelist, “Jesus came toward them walking on the sea.”  The disciples cannot recognize him amidst the storm and in the darkness of night.  He seems to them to be a “ghost.”  Fear has them terror-stricken.   The only thing real is that powerful storm.

This is our first problem.  While experiencing the Church’s crisis, we infect one another with discouragement, fear and lack of faith.  We cannot see that Jesus is drawing close to us precisely during this strong crisis. We feel alone and helpless more than ever.

Jesus says three things to them: “Take courage; it is I; do not be afraid!” Only Jesus can speak to them that way.  But their ears only hear the roaring waves and the strong wind.  This too is our mistake.  If we do not listen to Jesus’ invitation to put our unconditional trust in him, to whom shall we go?

Peter feels within an urge and, sustained by Jesus’ call, jumps out of the boat and begins “to walk on the water toward Jesus.”  That is how we should learn today to walk toward Jesus in the midst of the crisis, finding our support not in power, prestige and the securities of the past, but in the desire to encounter Jesus in the darkness and uncertainties of these times.

It is not easy.  We too can waiver and sink like Peter.  But just like him, we can experience Jesus extending his hands and saving us as he says to us: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Why do we doubt so much?  Why are we learning hardly anything new from the crisis?  Why do we keep looking for false securities in order to “survive” within our communities, without learning to walk with renewed faith toward Jesus deep inside the secularized society of our days?

This crisis is not the end of Christian faith.  It is the purification that we need in order to be free from worldly interests, deceptive triumphalism and the deformations, all of which have been keeping us far from Jesus over the centuries.  He is acting in this crisis.  He is leading us toward a Church that is more conformed to the Gospel.  Let us rekindle our trust in Jesus.  Do not be afraid.

José Antonio Pagola

August 10, 2014
19 Ordinary Time (A)
Matthew 14, 22-33

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