of Creighton University's Online Ministries
August 7th, 2011
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignation Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
We pray these days as people on a journey. We are one form of God’s really being present. We have eaten of the Bread of Life, Jesus, both in the Eucharist and in our acceptance of him as the One Who Has Been Sent.
To understand Elijah’s journey and why he just wanted to die, one must read the previous chapter to the one from which our First Reading is taken. Elijah is being chased for good reasons by Jezebel and Ahab who have killed all the other prophets of Israel. Elijah in his turn has proven the prophets of Baal, a god of fertility, no god at all. That little piece of action you must read and enjoy in chapter eighteen. He has mocked their god and then slaughters all one hundred and fifty false prophets. They played for keeps in those days.
The Gospel begins with a dismissal of the crowds after the multiple feeding. The disciples leave this kind of liturgy as well and Jesus stays back to pray. It is quiet there, but out on the sea there is a storm and the disciples are in fearful trouble. It is a perfect learning time.
Jesus comes toward them walking on the water and the disciples cry out in fear. Jesus does the words of consecration, “It is I, do not be afraid.” Peter, who often puts his foot in his mouth does it again and Jesus invites him to put his foot on the water and “come”. Peter responds eagerly, but gets a sinking feeling and Jesus catches him up and back into the boat where the others “of little faith” are awestruck and making the profound act of affirmation and faith, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
There are the themes of call and of fearfulness in today’s Readings. Elijah and Peter both hear the call within their fear and fragility. Elijah hears something just loud enough to be from God and yet not so loud as to be false. Elijah will have to leave the security of the cave and go back to face the music. Elijah is at Horeb where the covenant with Moses was concluded. God asks Elijah why he is there. Elijah bewails the breaking down of the covenanted faith within Israel. God tells him to go back and continue his work of being a prophet of the covenant.
Peter hears the call, responds and it seems Jesus fails him, tricking him. Peter has faith, but fears as well. It seems that whenever Peter has a failure, Jesus reveals to Peter and the Gospel readers, even more clearly who Jesus is for those who can find faith within their fears. In the Holy Scriptures it seems that revelation takes place within the dramatic context of human and personal timidity and poverty.
I was just sitting here thinking and I heard a little fellow outside call out his friend’s name four times. Finally the lad shouted, “Come out and play!” What I heard next was, “Why not, are you afraid!” Really, that just happened. A call, a response and a reaction all within ten seconds; I’ve been there.
I have witnessed two weddings in the past three weeks, talk about fear and faith being wedded. Walking down aisles is like walking on water. Commitment, covenant are formed from the tiny wee voice of love and faith which allows fears to make loud noises. Often the earthquakes and thunders are all we hear, but faith needs doubt to be real and in time God grasps us enough to hear His voice saying “Be not afraid.” I did not say to the trembling couples, “O you of little faith, why are you doubting?” They might say in response, “Easy for you to say, you are not getting married.” I wish it had been recorded that Peter responded, “Why?, because I was drowning and it didn’t look like you were going to do anything about it.” The only sure thing about the unknown is that it is unknown.
It is written in John’s Gospel that love casts out fear. That sounds good enough. Fear and doubt are appropriately human and so embraced by the love of the Creating God. I recall lying on the floor of Gesu Church in Milwaukee during the mass of my ordination to Christ’s priesthood. There was the singing of a long litany, but not quite long enough. I remember thinking, “If I had only a little more time, I’d be absolutely sure.” The singing ended, but not the unsureness. Thirty-nine years has past, but still there is the gift of doubt and fear which make commitment and fidelity my simple gift to God. He drags me often into His boat of affirmation which lasts a while until the next big set of waves gives me that same sinking thinking. “You of little faith” is not a condemnation, but the context for Jesus becoming Lord and the Sender.
“Lord, be true to your covenant, forget not the life of your poor ones for ever.” Ps. 74, 20
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook