19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

When faced with difficulties and turmoil the believer seeks out the Lord, but many today only resort to faith and prayer as a last resort when all other avenues are exhausted. Today’s readings remind us that seeking God’s presence should be our instinct in all matters, big and small.

In today’s First Reading Elijah has made a long and tiring pilgrimage to Mount Horeb to consult God when his life is endangered by the evil Jezebel. Forty days and nights before reaching Horeb Elijah had worked a powerful sign showing the Lord was God, had overthrown a veritable army of false prophets, and witnessed a long punitive drought that was imposed on the unfaithful Israelites ended. Despite this, his life was in danger and it seemed the evil and infidelity in Israel was as strong and powerful as ever, spearheaded by Jezebel, who pledged to kill after he’d humiliated her prophets and pagan religion.

He considered himself a failure and just wanted to sit beneath a tree and die. Yet the Lord’s messenger urged him to make the long pilgrimage to mount Horeb, the “mountain of God.” Upon arrival the Lord invites Elijah to explore his motivations for coming and then orders him to leave the cave in which he’d taken refuge and stand in his presence. Elijah knows the Lord is not to be found in the earthquake, the fire, or any other pyrotechnics or “special effects.” He reacts at the quietist of noises, knowing the Lord is there. When we’re faced with turmoil we too need to ignore the pyrotechnics of the situation and seek a moment of quiet. That’s where we’ll find the Lord. It may take time and sacrifice, but the Lord will reveal himself.

In today’s Second Reading Paul laments that Israel had received so much from the Lord but failed to recognize the Messiah when he came to them. The Messiah, their Savior, was their own flesh and blood, yet they didn’t recognize him when he finally came. John in the prologue to his Gospel said, “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:10-12).

Many Israelites did not recognize him as Messiah or as God. This should be a cautionary tale for us. We have so much in the Church, and have inherited so much from the Jews, but we must always remember who is behind them: Our Lord. They are ways of connecting or reconnecting with him. We’re adopted as sons and daughters of God through Christ. We receive glory through him, worship him, and follow his teachings, and trust in his promises. Let’s not squander the gifts by forgetting their Giver.

In today’s Gospel the disciples were sent by Our Lord into what soon became stormy waters, and when he approached them, they thought they were doomed, because they didn’t recognize him. The disciples saw a ghost and thought it was a sign that they’d soon be ghosts too. After all the miracles Our Lord had already performed you’d think walking on water would not have been that shocking to them. Our Lord has to encourage them: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter takes a risk and takes a step out of the boat and into the storm because he believed Our Lord was there and would help him. He takes one step…two steps…three steps…then the wind starts to howl and his feet start to sink in the water. Our Lord did not let him drown, and he will not let us drown either if we turn to him in faith.

As long as we’re on good terms with Our Lord (a life of grace), the Lord dwells inside us. Even when we’re not, he is near, always ready to reconnect. If you want to be able to seek out the Lord in stormy moments, foster the habit of seeking him out in calm ones as well. When things are going well, thank him. When life is not full of earth-shattering events, talk to him. Friends talk about everything no matter what the circumstances. Take a moment sometime this week to foster an awareness of Our Lord’s presence in your soul and speak with him. If you’re burdened by some sin that has distanced you from Our Lord, seek him in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Readings: 1 Kings 19:9a, 11–13a; Psalm 85:9–14; Romans 9:1–5; Matthew 14:22–33.