AD SENSE

19 Sunday A: In the Storms of life with Jesus

J saves PFrom Fr. Donald Planty:

The world’s attention is unfortunately, but understandably, regularly focused on the destructive force of natural events like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, as well as on the violent human forces contending in conflicts in Central Europe, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Latin America. 

In addition, we cannot help but be disturbed by so many forces intimately at odds with us:  the aggression of temptation and sin, the debilitation of illness, the pain of emotional wounds, the intensity of the passions, and the assaults of demons.  Indeed, the three enemies of our human nature–the world, the flesh, and the devil–are forces at war with us, striving to turn us away from Jesus and his saving Gospel.  Yet, these negative forces are no match for the positive power–the Good News of Jesus.  Yes, his grace, his presence with us, his provident love for us, is the greatest power in the universe–and no evil force can overcome him.  That is the consoling message of the readings our Mother the Church offers for our meditation this Sunday:  “Take courage, do not be afraid!”  The power of God’s gentle mercy is greater than any opposing force.
We see this in the experience of the prophet Elijah:  God’s presence is not revealed to him in the forceful wind, earthquake or fire, but in the power of his gently whispered word.  In contrast to natural, worldly, damaging forces, God’s power is supernatural, otherworldly, life-giving, and so is manifested in tenderness, in calm, in peace. (more down below)

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Gospel Text: Matthew 14:22-33
Michel DeVerteuil 
General Comments 

At first reading, today’s passage looks like one story, but in fact several stories are woven into it, and we cannot meditate on them all at the same time. We therefore separate the various strands and focus on one at a time. We might eventually find a link between them (the early Church did hand down the passage as a unity) but if we do find the link, it must happen spontaneously and in its own time.
In our meditation we choose our perspective. We can focus on Jesus, the ideal leader, parent, friend, spiritual guide; he is also the model of the Church in the world, and indeed of any alternative community which brings hope to the rest of humanity. On the other hand we can focus on those to whom Jesus ministers – the disciples, the crowd, St Peter. They are ourselves when we have a deep experience of grace and salvation.


Textual comments
Walking on water– Verses 22-23. Jesus sends away both the disciples and the crowds so that he can go up on the hills by himself and pray. This is the moment when those of us who have authority over others feel the need to get in touch with our deepest selves. We are able to distance ourselves from those we have responsibility for.
By doing this we also give them the space to find themselves – an  essential aspect of exercising authority. Even though, like Jesus, we end up having to go and rescue them, it is still a moment of growth – for them and for us.
– Verses 24-25. Jesus becomes aware (because he was at prayer?) that the disciples are in crisis; their boat is far out on the lake, they are battling against a high wind, he walks on the water to meet them. This is a deeply symbolical act in the bible, since the Jews saw the sea as evil, the dwelling place of terrifying monsters. Jesus walking on the water then, especially in a storm, is a deeply moving picture of the good person walking boldly and confidently into an evil environment. Here again we can make the link with verses 22-23 – it was because he was faithful to his times of solitary prayer that he had the power to walk on the water.
– Verse 26. The focus shifts to the disciples. When they see Jesus they are terrified, thinking “it is a ghost”, but he encourages them. We too when we panic, become suspicious and fearful even of goodness; only gradually do we recognise that it is a moment of grace.
– Verses 28 to 32. The incident with St Peter is clearly a later addition to the main story. It has
touched the imagination of Christians over the centuries, has been painted many times and has been the subject of countless sermons. Here again we can focus either on Jesus or on Peter:
– Jesus is the ideal leader and guide. The story reminds us that great leaders have the capacity to bring out the best in people – make them feel that they can step out and go beyond their usual limitations to do great things. A striking picture of the role of the Church in society.
– Peter represents us when we take a bold step and then once we have stepped out become afraid. Jesus the true friend challenges but does not reject – he continues to offer Peter his support.
– Verse 33. The climax of the story. Jesus finishes the task he set himself – he gets into the boat and the wind drops. We must avoid an escapist interpretation.  Jesus does not always calm storms, what he always does is convey the message that he has power over the forces of evil.
The disciples experience the victory of goodness over evil, grace over sin, life over death. It is a moment of rest, of “blessed assurance” – “the wind drops” – and of security – “Jesus gets in the boat”. They know they are in the presence of God, so they “bow down before him”.
Scripture Prayer Reflection
       “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you,
       the better you will be able to hear what is sounding outside.”     ...Dag Hammarskjold
PrayigLord, teach us to be more like Jesus,
to know when the time has come for us to be alone;
we insist that even our  closest companions leave
and send away the crowds we have nourished,
so that we can go up to the hills by ourselves to pray.
In that place of inner silence we become aware of our brothers and sisters
far out on the lake and battling with a heavy sea and a head-wind.
  “Religion is often rejected as reactionary. Yet the Christian faith properly understood
       and wholeheartedly followed is a force for radical change and renewal.”  …Cardinal Hume
Lord, our civilization is going through a great crisis.
We are like the apostles on a boat far from any shore,
battling with a heavy sea and facing a head-wind.
There are people who want to take risks, to try new ways of doing things,
and to create alternative institutions.
They will know that the Church is really the presence of Jesus
if they hear us calling them to leave the safety of the boat and step out
even though it means walking on the water.
“I am disarmed of the will to overcome, to justify myself at the expense of others,
       I am no longer on the alert, jealously guarding my riches.”   …Patriarch Athenagoras
Lord, we pray that your Church may be present to the world,
like Jesus walking on the water, free of all desire to conquer or even to impress,
trusting only in your love and your truth.
“You know when you have met a saint; instead of feeling inferior, you feel enormously affirmed.”  ...Margaret Hebblethwaite, after interviewing Cardinal Arns for the English Catholic paper, The Tablet
      
Help and support signpostLord, we thank you for the great people you send us on our life’s journey.
They bring out the best in us so that, like Peter with Jesus,
we cry out, “Tell me to come to you across the water!”
Lord, there are times when we feel so disillusioned
that even when you come to us with power
– a friend whom we can trust,
– an invitation to a retreat,
– an opportunity for relaxation,
we think it is a ghost and cry out in fear.
But then we hear the comforting words, “Courage, it  is I, do not be afraid.”
Thank you Lord.
“The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with one another,
the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”  ...James Baldwin
Lord, we thank you for faithful friends,
the kind that when we feel the force of the wind and take fright,
we only have to say “Save me!”
and at once they put out their hands and hold us.
Lord, prayer is experiencing that it is really you who are there with us,
feeling the urge to go beyond our limitations and to hear you say that we can do it;
then when we suddenly become aware of the risk we have taken and feel afraid,
to experience that you have put out your hand and held us.
Thank you, Lord.
Lord, we pray that Jesus will be our model in our work of spiritual guidance.
When we find that those we are guiding have little faith,
don’t let us become impatient or reject them;
help us rather to put out our hands at once and hold them.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

We live in a world that is shot-through with the glory of God. The Father has made us for himself that we might praise him; the Son has come among us to lead us towards the fullness of life; the Spirit dwells within us to enlighten our minds to the mystery that is greater than all we can see, touch, and taste. Part of living a Christian life is becoming attuned to this presence. This is the focus of our reflection today as we gather to en­counter Jesus in our common meal. But in this encounter we recognise that God is greater than all creation and is the very source of our being.

Homily notes
trusting Jesus1. How do we learn to be Christians? The most common an­swer to that question is to say something like this: ‘I will study the teachings of Jesus and see if I believe them. If I think they are true, I shall then be a believer’ (while subcon­sciously adding: and if I call myself a believer in Jesus’s mes­sage, then I will be called a Christian).
2. The problem with this is that Jesus is not just a religious wise man who offers us teachings. We do not simply believe his teaching, we believe in him. To believe in him is to believe that he is the Anointed, the Son of God. We do not simple be­lieve that what he said is true, but we believe that he is the truth.
3. The church’s message is not just a set of teachings that he has given us; the teaching of his followers is that Jesus is the mes­sage of the Father to all humanity. Our teaching is Jesus: that he is the Christ.
4. The task we face is to learn to live in Jesus, to live in a style that is consistent with affirming our basic teaching as Christians: that Jesus is the way to the Father.
5. This is the challenge that lies behind today’s gospel. It is not just enough to listen to Jesus, we have to get out of our security zone and go to him, to commit ourselves to him, to trust him. To learn to be a Christian is to learn to behave with an obedi­ent trust that amidst life’s difficulties and fears, he is the sav­iour.
I trust jesus6. The challenge of the gospel is not to ask whether you think it happened, or indeed whether or not you think it could hap­pen. Such questions are not questions about faith, but about history or physics. The challenge is that each of us, and all of us as a community, has to be prepared to leave our boat and venture toward Jesus. It is only in going toward him in trust that we discover who he truly is.
7. In a moment we will stand up and profess our faith. Note that we do not subscribe to a series of teachings or ideas which we might call ‘the teachings of Jesus’. Rather, we pro­fess that we believe in Jesus, and we believe him to be the Son of God in union with the whole church. We believe him to be the Son who has shown us the Father, and who has sent us the Spirit who gives us life.
8. Now, let us assert together through the power of the Spirit, who transforms us from being a bunch of individuals in the church, that we are the people who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who comes from the Father.
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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection


Fear is very basic to our human condition. We are often full of fears, some of them irrational. So it might seem that, having just witnessed Jesus miraculously feed more than five thousand people (see Mt 14:15-21), Peter and the others were being irrational by expressing fear and anxiety when, in the midst of a storm at sea, Jesus walked towards their boat that was being tossed about by the wind.

trustBut Peter was learning. His fear at finding himself in such a precarious position in the boat, while Jesus had gone up into the hills alone to pray, was somewhat abated when the apparition approaching them and, filling them with fear, offered this reassurance: ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid’ (Mt 14:27). Peter was able to muster sufficient faith to respond: ‘Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water’ (Mt 14:28).
This was indeed a leap of faith. Already filled with fear at finding himself in the middle of a stormy sea in a small boat, with only other terrified followers of Jesus for company, Peter asked for no proof that Jesus was who he said he was. Peter sought a command that would permit him to exercise his faith.
Nonetheless, having bravely made this initial act of faith, Peter then began to doubt. The wind was raging around him and the waters were turbulent. He began to sink, and suddenly cried: ‘Lord! Save me!’ (Mt 14:30). The lesson for us here is that there is an ideal to follow when our own faith begins to crumble.
It is better, of course, not to doubt. Indulging in doubt has always been considered to be sinful by the Church. But if we fall, if we allow ourselves, like Peter, to doubt the power of Jesus momentarily — even to calm stormy seas — then let us immediately acknowledge that same power by asking for salvation, as Peter did.
Jesus responded to Peter’s cry for help by stretching out a saving hand, while at the same time rebuking him for doubting:‘Man of little faith, why did you doubt?’ (Mt 14:31).
This miracle teaches us about the supernatural character of the Church. If we think that the Church is a purely human
institution, then we will be full of fear when it is tossed about on the winds of fashion and controversy. We will begin to doubt as Peter doubted. In that case, we must be prepared for the same rebuke given to Peter.
The truth is that Christ is in charge of his Church. Because of that, there is no reason for us to doubt. All that God asks of us is that we are faithful to him and to the teachings of his Church. Matthew’s account of this miracle concludes with the news that when they were all gathered together in the boat, with Jesus, the storm ceased. When they recognised his power, calm was restored.
The lesson for us is simple. The Church, notwithstanding its sinful members and their weaknesses, is a divine-human
institution. It relies on supernatural help to achieve its mission which is the salvation of the whole world. There is no need for us to be fearful.
For meditation
The men in the boat bowed down before him and said,
‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’    (Mt 14:33)
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Fr Donal Neary, S.J
A hand to be held

A most strange gospel story – Jesus walks on the water. It’s the type of gospel that suits a decision time, challenging us into deep trust – an invitation to come to the water; not to be afraid. It’s about trusting in Jesus, when there is nothing else. If you have human help, it’s great – but not the same as trusting in God.
In time of death, the call is to trust in God’s promise, because he is the way and the truth. Old age can be the same, or times in life when we just don’t know what the future will hold. It sounds unusual, but what Jesus does in this situation is very human. He doesn’t lecture or say a prayer, he just holds hands. Someone was given a book on bereavement after a family death – he said he needed a hand to be held, or his tears to be heard. That’s Je­sus. He held Peter. God is a God with skin, with a human heart, and leaves big ideas behind when we are in trouble. Jesus just went across the lake, stopping his comfortable prayer.
There are times when we just need to hold on to God in trust. On another occasion Peter would jump into the lake again – after the resurrection. Always a water man! Then he would be asked not just to hold a hand, but to be the hand that would reach out to others. Peter was prepared for his mission in many ways. As Pope Francis says, ‘When the Lord wants to give us a mission, wants to give us a task, He prepares us. He prepares us to do it well’ (June 2014).
Remember a time when all you seemed to have was God; thank him.Or recall when all you needed was God; ask him now for help.Lord, in you I put my trust
From the Connections:
 THE WORD:
In Matthew’s Gospel, the storm at Gennesaret and Peter’s walking on the water immediately follows the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  The depth of Peter’s love for Jesus is not matched by a depth of faith; but Jesus, nonetheless, raises the sinking disciple up from the waters of fear and death.


HOMILY POINTS:
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus intentionally withdraws from his friends and followers to be alone; but such times are not for “chilling” or “vegging” but for attentive, focused prayer, to be in touch with the rhythm and movement of God. God calls us to our own out-of-the-way places, our own quiet “mountains” to be fully aware of God’s presence in our lives and hearts.
What happens to Peter in today’s Gospel, happens to all of us at one time or another:  We panic.  We don’t trust ourselves to know what the right thing is or our ability to do it.  But, somehow, God reaches out and catches us — if we’re willing to put aside our fears and try to do as Jesus would do, trusting in God’s grace to realize that good.
Jesus promises that in every storm that batters us his hand is extended to us in the hand of those we love and trust; he also calls us to grasp the Peters in our midst who struggle not to be overwhelmed by the waves of fear, doubt and alienation that often threaten to drown all of us.
Noa’s prayer
In her book Hope Will Find You, Naomi Levy tells of the wisdom she has learned from her daughter Noa, who struggles with a debilitating degenerative disease. 
One morning in early September, little Noa woke up with a terrible bout of ataxia, the inability to keep her balance.  Noa was teetering like someone who was severely drunk.  Her mother wanted to keep her home from school, but Noa, just in her second week in second grade, would not hear of it.  Noa told her mother, “If I pray for a while I’ll be OK.”
So Noa picked herself up, held on to the wall, made her way to her room, stood before the mirror, and started singing her morning prayers in Hebrew.  Her mother Naomi remembers:
“She sang with great joy and purity.  I was watching from a distance, not wanting to disturb her or make her self-conscious.  A serenity started to flow through her body.  I could see it.  Her mood changed, her posture changed, her expression changed.  When she was done singing, she walked straight up to me with strength and steadiness and said, ‘I’m ready for school now.’  And she was.  Prayer could do that for her.”

We tend to approach prayer as either trying to wrest what we need from an unwilling God or the reciting of formulas that express our religious identity.  But prayer is to recognize God’s love in our lives, to find our bearings in the life of God.  Little Noa understands that: her morning prayer helps her focus on God’s presence in her every struggle of her day.  Just as Jesus withdraws to the mountain at the beginning of today’s Gospel, we, too, need sacred time where and when we can withdraw to listen to the voice of God in the quiet of our hearts, to know the joy of doing simple, humble things for others.  Jesus invites  us to find spaces for prayer and make quiet time in our days in order to re-center our lives in the reality of God’s love, to hear again God’s voice calling us to lives of joyful gratitude and meaningful service.  

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ILLUSTRATIONS:

From Fr. Jude Botelho:


In the first reading we meet Elijah the prophet hiding in a cave as he tries to distance himself from Queen Jezabel who is out to get him because he has humiliated and killed her prophets. Now on the run for his life, he is directed to Mount Horeb where he takes refuge in a cave. He wants to meet God and wishes this God to act powerfully against his enemies. There he discovers that his tactics are not God’s tactics. God’s approach is a non-violent one, symbolized by the mighty wind and earthquake in which he does not find God. Rather it is a gentle one, symbolized by the gentle breeze. Our God is so different from what we expect!

Deep calls to Deep
A storm arose at sea and the ship was being tossed by winds and waves. Panic-stricken, the passengers ran helter-skelter on the deck begging God to save them. Amidst the confusion, little Monica stared coolly at the tempestuous sea. Seeing the girl so cool and composed, a passenger barked, “Hey kid, aren’t you afraid?” Monica replied casually, “Why worry? My daddy’s the captain!” Today’s readings speak of winds and waves, and of Christ, our Captain’s assurance. “Courage! It is I!”
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

In today’s gospel, we read that Jesus sent his disciples in a boat and he went on the mountain and was praying until three in the morning. Later, Jesus walked over the water and found His disciples fighting a losing battle against the storm. Though He was present fear engulfed them. His presence calmed the sea and gave them freedom from fear. The lesson in this passage is abundantly clear. As Matthew relates it, the story is clearly symbolic. The disciples in the boat represent the infant church; the wind and the waves represent the persecution let loose on the Church. Jesus is not with them physically; He is in heaven praying to the Father. However in the Church’s direst need, when all seems lost, her Lord comes to save her, The incident of Peter sinking and being saved by Jesus is probably a reference to Peter’s failure during the passion, and his restoration after the resurrection. In any case Peter represents the typical disciple, caught between faith and doubt. Jesus’ rebuke, “Man of little faith! Why did you doubt?” is directed to us also, who often start out courageously only to lose heart when faced with a crisis.

Jesus Comes … In silence
A proper understanding of the gospel story of Jesus walking on the sea has a lot to teach us of who Jesus is. Jesus comes to us in our trials and tribulations. He comes very calmly and quietly. He comes to us in silence. If we practice silence long enough, we may, like Elijah, sense God in the most surprising moments of our lives. Let me conclude with this story. Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said, “Oh, no! The candle is out.” The second monk said, “Aren’t we not supposed to talk?” The third monk said, “Why must you break the silence?” The fourth monk laughed and said, “I’m the only one who didn’t speak.” –Mother Teresa says, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see how the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.”
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

The impossible becomes possible…
Mark Link tells the inspiring story of a 17 year-old girl named Joni Eareckson, who like all teenagers her age was full of vitality, vigour and promise. Her favourite sport was horse riding, and in every completion her performance was so very impressive that her prospects for the future kept rising both noticeably and dramatically. One hot afternoon in July, Joni went for a swim in Chesapeake Bay and there tragedy struck. On one particular dive she sustained such a severe injury to her head that she was instantly knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment. And there the worst fears of her loved ones were confirmed. Joni would be a quadriplegic for the rest of her life. The months ahead were an absolute nightmare, with just no light at the end of the tunnel. The once graceful rider, who delighted crowds with her performances, would lie strapped to a Stryker frame. And for much of her time she would lie with her face down, looking at nothing but the floor. That is when she had a spiritual experience. As Joni lay strapped in her Stryker frame, she thought of Jesus nailed to the cross. He was God yet he was totally powerless and helpless. And she adds, “I pictured Jesus standing by my Stryker frame and saying to me, “Don’t lose heart, Joni, for I am with you and will help you to achieve the impossible.” Even as she lay there a curious thought crossed Joni’s mind. She could attempt painting if she could hold a painting brush between her teeth. And that is precisely what she did- so successfully and admirably that she is author of two best-sellers –one being autobiographical and entitled Joni –and has played the lead role in a movie of her own life. This inspiring story aptly demonstrates what Jesus can do in the life of any and every individual, if we let him. As the saying goes, “Where some see a caterpillar, others see a butterfly.” As someone has rightly said, “We must let go, and let God.” This precisely is what Joni did in her absolute helplessness. But with faith in the almighty power and the never-failing help of the Lord Jesus, she was able to achieve the impossible.
J. Valladares in ‘Your Words O Lord, are Spirit, and they are Life’


Launch out into the deep

The God-encounter is possible when one dives deeper, climbs higher, ventures further and ‘burns one’s boats’ to launch out into the deep. The conquistador, Hernan Cortes (1485- 1547), was an ambitious man and desired to conquer Mexico for King Charles V of Spain. Frightened by unknown lands and its many inhabitants, his sailors dreamt of turning back to their ships, whereupon Cortes ordered them to ‘burn their boats.’ Are you ready to burn your boats and launch out into the deep to meet Deep?
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

Ready to uphold you!
Peter’s encounter with Jesus becomes a model of the Church’s encounter with God. Life tosses us about and makes us scream, “Help!” Rather than saving us by shortcuts, Jesus appears in life’s storms saying, “Courage, it is I!” His invitation follows: “Come!” Are we ready –as individuals and Church – to jump off the boat, leave the bandwagon and abandon the crowd? The Indian state of Gujarat suffered devastating floods in July 2005. The oldest Church in Gujarat, at Anand, was inundated like never before. This “Church in deep waters” is symbolic of the Church called to weather today’s tempests of godlessness, globalization, materialism, fundamentalism, and individualism. Indeed, Christ the Captain calls us to enter depth and encounter Deep. Isn’t that the same hand that held Peter ever ready to hold you and me?
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil:



1):  An old story about trustful Faith: In the middle of a dark winter’s night in a small Midwest farming community, the two-story home of a young family caught fire. Quickly, parents and children followed their well-practiced emergency plan and made their way through the smoke-filled home out into the front yard. There the father quickly counted heads and realized that their 5-year-old son was not among them. Suddenly he heard a wail and looked up to see the boy at his bedroom window, crying and rubbing his eyes. Knowing the danger of reentering the house to rescue his son, the father called, “Jump, Son! I’ll catch you!” Between sobs, the boy responded to the voice he knew so well. “But I can’t see you, Daddy!” The father answered with great assurance. “No, Son, you can’t see me, but I can see you! Jump!” At that, the boy jumped into the smoky darkness and found himself safely cradled in his father’s arms. Our Scripture readings for today are about trusting – about having Faith – about being able to discern the fact that our God is always with us, even in storms of life. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

2):  Elizabeth Blackwell walked on water: (https://youtu.be/dLKDMe52O3c) For Elizabeth Blackwell “walking on water” meant something entirely different. Elizabeth Blackwell was born on February 3, 1821, in Bristol, England. As a girl, she moved with her family to the United States, where she first worked as a teacher. Elizabeth wanted to become a doctor in the 1840s. At the time, medical schools were only for men. Elizabeth Blackwell had to fight just to get in. Finally, at one school, Geneva College of Medicine in New York, the students voted to let her in as a joke. But the head of the school didn’t know it was supposed to be a joke, and he let her in. When she got there, the students made fun of her. They refused to share their notes with her. Some professors tried to keep her out of their classes. She refused to give up. In 1849, she graduated at the head of her class. When no hospital would allow her to practice, she opened her own hospital. Then she opened a medical school to train women. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Blackwell) Elizabeth Blackwell courageously got out of the boat and walked on the roaring waters of opposition and gender discrimination in the medical profession. Today’s Gospel tells us how Peter the apostle tried to walk on water and failed because of his weak Faith in Jesus. (https://youtu.be/j-Vpxb6A6XI) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

3):  Joni survived the storm in her life: (https://youtu.be/4fzY0uj9q6k) Mark Link tells the inspiring story of a 17-year-old girl named Joni Eareckson, who like all teenagers her age was full of vitality, vigor and promise. Her favorite sport was horse-back riding, and in every completion her performance was so very impressive that her prospects for the future kept rising both noticeably and dramatically. One hot afternoon in July, Joni went for a swim in Chesapeake Bay and there tragedy struck. On one particular dive, she sustained such a severe injury to her head that she was instantly knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment. And there the worst fears of her loved ones were confirmed. Joni would be a quadriplegic for the rest of her life. The months ahead were an absolute nightmare, with just no light at the end of the tunnel. The once graceful rider, who delighted crowds with her performances, would lie strapped to a Stryker frame. And for much of her time she would lie with her face down, looking at nothing but the floor. That is when she had a spiritual experience. As Joni lay strapped in her Stryker frame, she thought of Jesus nailed to the cross. He was God yet He was totally powerless and helpless. And she adds, “I pictured Jesus standing by my Stryker frame and saying to me, “Don’t lose heart, Joni, for I am with you and will help you to achieve the impossible.” Even as she lay there a curious thought crossed Joni’s mind. She could attempt painting if she could hold a painting brush between her teeth. And that is precisely what she did- so successfully and admirably that she is author of two best-sellers –one being autobiographical and entitled Joni –and has played the lead role in a movie of her own life. This inspiring story aptly demonstrates what Jesus can do in the life of any and every individual, if we let him. This precisely is what Joni did in her absolute helplessness. But with Faith in the Almighty Power and the never-failing help of the Lord Jesus, she was able to achieve the impossible. [J. Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit, and They Are Life (https://youtu.be/WiygoMpCNms)] (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

4): “God sometimes whispers.” There is a story told about a young man and an old preacher. The young man had lost his job and didn’t know which way to turn. So he went to see the old preacher. Pacing about the preacher’s study, the young man ranted about his problem. Finally, he clenched his fist and shouted, “I’ve begged God to say something to help me. Tell me, Preacher, why doesn’t God answer?” The old preacher, who sat across the room, spoke something in reply – something so hushed, it was indistinguishable. The young man stepped across the room. “What did you say?” he asked. The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. So, the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher’s chair. “Sorry,” he said. “I still didn’t hear you.” With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more. “God sometimes whispers,” he said, “so that we will move closer to hear Him.” This time the young man heard, and he understood. We all want God’s voice to thunder through the air with the answer to our problem. But God’s is the still, small voice… the gentle whisper. Perhaps there’s a reason. Nothing draws human focus quite like a whisper. God’s whisper means I must stop my ranting and move close to Him, until my head is bent together with His. Then, as I listen, I will find my answer. Better still, I find myself closer to God. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

5: Familiar story. In one of his books, Mark Twain recalls a visit to the Holy Land and a stay in Capernaum. It was a moonlit night, so he decided to take his wife on a romantic boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Twain asked a man in a rowboat how much he would charge to take them out on the water. The man saw Twain’s white suit, white shoes and white hat and supposed he was a rich Texan. So, he said the cost would be twenty-five dollars. Twain walked away as he said, “Now I know why Jesus walked on water.”

6: Ministers walking on water! There’s an old joke about three pastor friends who are on a beach together. The first, a Catholic priest gets up from his beach towel and walks about a quarter mile out to a raft in the ocean. The second, a Protestant minister, does the same. The third, a rabbi, the newcomer in the group, gets up and walks toward the raft to join his colleagues. Suddenly he finds himself underwater. The priest turns to the minister and says, “Didn’t you tell him where the rocks are?”

7: “Have Faith my child”: For the umpteenth time Mrs. Youngston came to her pastor to tell him, “I’m so scared! Joe says he’s going to kill me if I continue to come to your Church.” “Yes, yes, my child,” replied the pastor, more than a little tired of hearing this over and over. “I will continue to pray for you, Mrs. Youngston. Have Faith – the Lord will watch over you.” “Oh yes, He has kept me safe thus far, only…..” “Only what, my child?” “Well, now Joe says if I keep coming to your church, he’s going to kill YOU!” “Well, now,” said the pastor, “Perhaps it’s time for you to check out that little parish on the other side of town.”

8: A priest of little Faith and big ambitions: A Jewish rabbi and his friend a Catholic priest were traveling together in a train and it being a long journey they started to talk.
Rabbi : So what’s your next move, padre?
Priest : Well, if I’m lucky I might get a parish of my own
Rabbi : And then?
Priest : Well perhaps I’ll be made a Monsignor and maybe even a Bishop!
Rabbi : And after that?
Priest : Well I suppose, it’s just possible that I could become a Cardinal
Rabbi : Yes, and what after that?
Priest : Well, it’s ridiculous to think about it. But I suppose I could become Pope!
Rabbi : And then?
Priest : Well that’s it, Pope! There’s only God after that.
Rabbi : Well, you never know. After all one of our Jewish boys from Nazareth, made it! (Source: Jewish Jokes “with no blasphemy intended”)

22- Additional anecdotes:

 1) Called or Not, God is Present. Above the office door of the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung (1875-1961), hung a stone plaque inscribed with the words: “Called or Not, God is Present.” Jung’s sign encapsulated in a few words what the joint testaments of Judaism and Christianity have put forth in hundreds of thousands of words for centuries, viz., that the Transcendent Almighty God chooses to be with humankind, to commune with us, to love and move among us, to be near, to abide, to be present whether called or not, in peace, as well as in panic. The real question is not, “Is God absent from us.” Rather the real question is: “Are we absent from God?” This Sunday’s first reading relates the experience of the prophet Elijah who sought and realized the presence of God in the peaceful silence of Horeb (Sinai). Peter and the disciples (Gospel) experienced the presence of God in the person of Jesus whose power over the sea calmed their panic and fostered their Faith. Paul, in the second reading, taken from Romans, lamented the fact that not all of his fellow Israelites had come to know the saving presence of God as he had, on the road to Damascus. (Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

2)There seems to be no limit to our fears. In a Peanuts cartoon strip Charlie Brown goes to Lucy for a nickel’s worth of psychiatric help. She proceeds to pinpoint his particular fear. “Perhaps,” she says, “you have hypengyophobia,” (the fear of responsibility). Charlie Brown says, “No.” “Well, perhaps you have ailurophobia,” (the fear of cats). “No.” “Well, maybe you have climacophobia,” (the fear of staircases). ”No.” Exasperated, Lucy says, “Well, maybe you have pantophobia,” (the fear of everything). “Yes,” says Charlie, “that’s the one!’ Sometimes we feel we are afraid of everything. We are tossed by storms of fear. We are afraid of ourselves. We are afraid of people. We are afraid of the future. We are afraid of our past. We are afraid of life. We are afraid of death. Peter knows that the Lord can sustain him. Even in the midst of the storm, when there is nothing but uncertainty, He will take care of us. But I want you to know that Faith is a risk-taking enterprise. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

3)“I have Faith in the Lord, and He will save me.” (A story about presumptuous Faith). A man named Smith climbed upon the roof of his riverside house during a flood, confident that his God would save him miraculously. When the flood waters had covered his feet a neighbor in his canoe paddled past and shouted, “Can I give you a lift to a higher ground?” “No, thanks,” said Smith. “I have Faith in the Lord and He will save me.” Soon the water had risen to Smith’s waist. At this point a motor-boat pulled up and someone invited him to get into the boat and escape. But Mr. Smith adamantly refused the offer declaring his Faith in the saving power of his God. Later when Smith was standing on the roof with water up to his neck somebody from a helicopter dropped a rope and the pilot yelled at him, “Grab the rope before the water currents push you down.” “No, thanks,” said Smith. “I have Faith in the Lord and He will save me.” But after a while Mr. Smith lost his grip on the roof, fought for his life for a time and finally drowned. As he arrived at the Pearly Gates, he met God and launched a complaint about this turn of events. “Tell me, Lord,” he said, “I had such Faith in You to save me and You let me down. Why? It was not fair.” The Lord replied, “What did you expect Me to do? I sent a canoe, a motor-boat and a helicopter to save you.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

4)“Stop!”: A woman is walking down the street when she hears a voice shout, “Stop!” And she stops, and a piece of metal falls from space just in front of her–perhaps debris from a satellite. If she had gone one step farther, she would have been killed. She looks around to find the person who saved her life and sees no one. A few days later she is about to cross a street and she hears the same voice boom, “Stop!” And a car, out of control, zooms by in front of her–missing her by inches. She looks around again for the source of the strange but life-saving voice. She sees no one, but this time she hears a voice. “Do you know who I am?” the voice asks. “No, I don’t,” she answers. “I am your guardian angel,” says the voice. “I am here to protect you from harm.” Instead of voicing her gratitude, the woman was indignant. “There’s just one thing I want to know,” she said, “Where were you when I got married?” All of us take risks. We would never have anything if we did not. No new relationships would be formed. No new businesses would be started. No new homes would be built. Helen Keller got it right when she said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky put it this way, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” Mark Twain waxed poetic when he wrote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Today’s Gospel describes how Peter takes a risk by stepping into the sea to walk upon water. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

5) What is she/he doing but walking on water? I’ll bet every one of us this morning can think of some remarkable water-walkers we have known. We all have watched simple, straight-forward, hard-working men and women, little toddlers and tormented teens, the shut-in elders and the shut-out homeless, perform acts in their lives that defy the limitations of the world in which they live. The chemotherapy patient who gets out of bed, puts on clean clothes and picks up around the house, before going for treatment . . . What is he or she doing but walking on water? The homeless woman who sleeps in a box, gleans food from dumpsters, but still smiles a greeting and laughs at a joke . . . What is she doing but walking on water? The single parent, overworked, overwhelmed, over-extended in time, money, and energy, who makes it to soccer games and school plays and checks to see that homework is done . . . What is that harried parent doing but walking on water? The octogenarian who lives alone, whose family has forgotten him, who counts the postal carrier and the water-meter reader as “company,” but still is up and dressed by 8am and sits at the table for all his meals . . . What is he doing but walking on water? There are people here this morning who are walking on water. You may not know who they are, and the difficulties they’re facing . . . but I can tell you as their pastor (and I don’t know all the stories represented here this morning, but enough to speak with conviction) . . . I’m looking out now at people who are walking on water. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

6) “Staring at that cross, I realized that therein lies freedom.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn was the first author to alert the West to the horrible realities he had experienced in Stalin’s Gulags — labor camps. Solzhenitsyn said that only once during his long imprisonment in a labor camp in the Soviet Union did he become so discouraged that he thought about suicide. He was outdoors, on a work detail, and he had reached a point where he no longer cared whether he lived or died. When he had a break, he sat down, and a stranger sat beside him, someone he had never seen before and would never see again. For no apparent reason, this stranger took a stick and drew a cross on the ground. Solzhenitsyn sat and stared at that cross for a long while. He later wrote, “Staring at that cross, I realized that therein lies freedom.” At that point – in the midst of a storm – he received new courage and the will to live. The storm didn’t end that day, but through Jesus, Solzhenitsyn found the strength to ride it out. I don’t know what storm of life will come your way this week, or what storm you may be enduring at this very moment. But I know this: even as the storm rages around you, if you will listen very carefully with your heart, you will hear a gentle voice calling to you, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” And in time the storm will pass. And Jesus will still be there. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

7) Henri Nouwen’s Little River story: Once upon a time there was a little river that said, “I can become a big river.” It worked hard to get big, but in the process, encountered a huge rock. “I won’t let this rock stop me,” the river said. And the little river pushed and pushed until it finally made its way around the rock. Next the river encountered a mountain. “I won’t let this mountain stop me,” the river said. And the little river pushed and pushed until it finally carved a canyon through the mountain. The river, now large and powerful, finally arrived at the edge of a vast desert. “I won’t let this desert stop me,” the river said. But as the river pushed and pushed its way across the desert, the hot sand began soaking up its water until only a few puddles remained. The river was quiet. Then the river heard a voice from above. “My child, stop pushing. It’s time to surrender. Let me lift you up. Let me take over.” The river said, “Here I am.” The sun then lifted the river up and turned it into a huge cloudAnd the wind carried the river across the desert and let it rain down on the hills and valleys of the faraway fields, making them fruitful and rich. If we stay focused on Christ, having more Faith in Him than in ourselves, obeying His will even when it’s hard, no obstacle will be too much for us, and he will make our lives more fruitful than we could ever imagine. (E-Priest). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

8) General George Patton can walk on water: General George Patton’s soldiers were in awe of him. A member of General Marshall’s staff once asked a second lieutenant under Patton’s command if he believed that General Patton could walk on water. The lieutenant replied, “Colonel, I know General Patton! If he had to walk on water, he would figure out a way and within twenty-four hours he would have me doing it as well!” Such stories are part of our national folklore. But they’re all in fun. Nobody takes them seriously. Because, let’s face it, people can’t walk on water. At least, ordinary people. And that is exactly the point of this story from Matthew’s Gospel: JESUS IS NO ORDINARY MAN, AND THE EFFECT HE CAN HAVE ON THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO TRUST HIM IS DRAMATIC. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

9) Sarah was focused on what to do, Michelle on what to avoid: Author Zig Ziglar in his book, Better Than Good, tells about the 2002 Winter Olympic Games when sixteen‑year‑old Sarah Hughes skated her way to a gold medal. Sarah stepped on the ice, says Zig, not believing she had a chance of winning any medal, so she just skated with reckless abandon, unconcerned about the live audience, the television audience, or for that matter, the judges. She just gave it all she had. That sheer abandon she exhibited expressed the total joy she was feeling at the time and she turned in a spectacular performance, winning the gold. Michelle Kwan, on the other hand, skated after Sarah and was expected to win the gold. She was a true champion, beloved by skating fans the world over, and the recipient of many medals in her career. But after Sarah Hughes’s flawless performance, Michelle went out determined not to make any mistakes. Consequently, she fell, and took the bronze. Zig Ziglar contends that while Sarah was focused on what to do, Michelle was focused on what to avoid doing. And it made the difference. That is what fear continually does to us. We fear failure, and the very act of fearing causes us to fail. We fear the future, and because of that fear, we sabotage opportunities that come to us. We fear sickness and pain and death, and the weight of that worry increases the chances that illness will overtake us. That is why Jesus’ words are so important to us, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

10) Focus your thoughts on God: There is a story about the famous statesman Bismarck who came into a friend’s house and saw a portrait of himself on display in the friend’s parlor. The picture portrayed Bismarck as a strong and forceful man. Bismarck shook his head and asked, “Is that supposed to be me? It can’t be.” Then he turned around to a picture his friend had of the fearful Simon Peter sinking beneath the waves and said, “That is I!” That is how we feel when we take our eyes off of Christ. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale tells how he once developed laryngitis because he worried about a speaking engagement at which he would be speaking to over a thousand people. When he sought medical help, his doctor said, “I didn’t think I would ever have to give this kind of advice to Norman Vincent Peale: Focus your thoughts on God, don’t focus them on your problems…when you focus on your problems, your nervous system tightens up so your blood doesn’t flow harmoniously. As a result, you experience sickness. Focus your thoughts on God instead of on your problems…” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

11) The Denial of Death: In his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker says that so many of the fears that we grapple with – the fear of rejection, abandonment, failure, separation, loss – are but manifestations of the one ultimate fear, and that is the fear of death. Perhaps he is right. How do we overcome that ultimate fear? Faith. Only through Faith will the demons of fear that can haunt us be exorcized. I think the Gospel is telling us that when Peter stepped out onto the lake, walked on the water, it was only when he looked at the wind and waves that he became terrified and stopped looking at Jesus, and that is when he started to sink, Jesus later asked him why he doubted. Why didn’t his Faith carry him across the water to Jesus’ side? It was fear. Fear crept in and doubt began to rise and Peter began to sink. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

12) Not a single person bullied her or taunted her. In the book, A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Bill Sanders writes of a young neighbor named Nikki who learned to walk on the water. When Nikki was in seventh grade, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Nikki went through the necessary chemotherapy and the resulting loss of hair. To be different as a seventh grader is a kind of death. Without hair, Nikki was very different from her peers. She was a generally popular girl, but still she faced hurdles. Kids would sneak up behind her and snatch her wig off. People would stare and laugh. No one would sit with her in the cafeteria or in math class, and the lockers on either side of hers had been vacated. Nikki told her neighbor, Bill, that she could handle losing her hair. And with her faith in God, she could handle losing her life. But the hardest part of her illness was losing her friends. Nikki’s parents had given her permission to stay out of school, but then Nikki changed her mind. She heard a story about a seventh-grader in Arkansas who was bullied for bringing his Bible to school. The boy handed his Bible to his biggest tormentor and said, “Here, see if you’ve got enough courage to carry this around school just one day.” Those three bullies became his three friends. Another story that affected Nikki was of a boy from Ohio named Jimmy Masterdiro. Ohio didn’t have a state motto, so Jimmy wrote a proposed state motto, then set up a petition to get the motto legitimated by the state. Jimmy got enough signatures to take his petition before the State legislature. Because of Jimmy Masterdiro, Ohio’s official state motto is, “All things are possible with God.” Nikki set out for the school the next Monday as usual. Her parents drove her. When she got to school, Nikki hugged and kissed both her parents. Then she said, “Mom and Dad, guess what I’m going to do today?” Her eyes began to tear up. “Today I’m going to find out who my best friend is. Today I’m going to find out who my real friends are.” Then Nikki took off her wig and set it on the car seat. “They take me for who I am, Daddy, or they don’t take me at all. I don’t have much time left. I’ve got to find out who they are today.” Then Nikki asked for her parents’ prayers, and she walked into the school. Not a single person bullied her or taunted her. [Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, [(Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc., 1995), pp. 24-27.] I don’t know what walking on the water would be for you. Going back to school? Asking for that promotion? Inviting your next-door neighbor to come to a Bible study with you? All I’m saying is, don’t let fear defeat you. You have a Friend who comes to you in your hour of greatest need and says, “Don’t be afraid; you can do it. Step out of the boat and walk on the water with Me.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

13) Do you recognize the name Anna Taylor? No? It’s just as well. On October 24, 1901, Anna was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and live. That’s too much risk-taking for most of us. Do you know what the last words of a redneck are? “Hey, guys, watch this.” Some risk-taking is just plain dumb. And yet some people, by their very nature, are risk-takers. Christopher Columbus was a risk-taker. So are racecar drivers and many celebrities. These people have a personality trait which researchers call “novelty-seeking.” Researchers say novelty-seekers are usually outgoing, excitable, short-tempered and eager for new experiences. They’re also likelier to have a gene that fosters this thrill-seeking temperament. Studies by Israeli and U.S. researchers, published in Nature Genetics, have linked novelty-seeking behavior with a gene that affects the body’s response to the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine helps stimulate the feeling of euphoria. It affects how we perceive pain, and it plays a role in the sensations produced by some addictive drugs. The researchers found that people with the gene for the D4 dopamine receptor were likelier to seek new experiences than people without this receptor. How they pursue their novelty-seeking, however, will be determined by their experiences. A novelty-seeker encouraged to be athletic, for instance, might try bungee jumping, while someone from a cerebral environment might become an inventor. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

14) Reach out to Jesus: Dale Carnegie relates in his famous book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, the resilience of a discouraged and disheartened book salesman, John R. Antony. Antony knew his job thoroughly, but, somehow, he never made many sales. Day by day, he was discouraged. He became afraid to call on people. Even when he went in, often, he would wish that his client wouldn’t be in the seat. The sales manager threatened to stop his advances if he didn’t send in more orders. With decreasing sales, Antony grew depressed. The only reason he did not commit suicide was because he did not have the courage to do so. Since he had no one else to turn towards, he turned towards God. He asked God to help him to give him money to feed his wife and his three children. After the prayer he opened his eyes and saw the Bible on the dresser in the hotel room. He opened the Bible read the words of Jesus: “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Mt: 6: 25-33).” As he read and prayed over those words of Jesus, a miracle happened. His anxieties, worries and fears were transformed into heart-warming courage and hope and triumphant Faith. The next morning, he got up and dressed well and headed towards his clients with a bold and positive stride. He held his chin high and introduced himself confidently and began his selling of the books. From then on, he never turned back. Twenty-two years later he confessed this truth: “That night I had become suddenly aware of my relationship with God. A mere man alone can easily be defeated, but a man alive with the power of God within him is invincible. I know. I saw it work in my own life.” Anthony from his sinking state reached out to Christ and Christ lifted him up. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony
15) A dog walking on water: An avid duck hunter was in the market for a new bird dog. His search ended when he found a dog that could actually walk on water to retrieve a duck. Shocked by his find, he was sure none of his friends would ever believe him. He decided to try to break the news to a friend of his, a pessimist by nature, and invited him to hunt with him and his new dog. As they waited by the shore, a flock of ducks flew by. they fired, and a duck fell. The dog responded and jumped into the water. The dog, however, did not sink but instead walked across the water to retrieve the bird, never getting more than his paws wet. The friend saw everything but did not say a single word. On the drive home the hunter asked his friend, “Did you notice anything unusual about my new dog?” “I sure did,” responded his friend. “He can’t swim.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

16) “It was then that I carried you.” One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it. “LORD, you said that once I decided to follow You, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You most, You would leave me.” The LORD replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” (Fr. Tommy Lane). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

17) St. Tharsilla’s Secret: Have Faith and live it: St. Tharsilla [thar-SIHL-uh] lived in Rome in the 500s. She and her sister St. Emiliana [ehm-eel-ee-YAHN-uh] were living on their father’s estate just outside the city walls. They dedicated themselves almost entirely to prayer and to serving the poor. Their brother was Pope St. Gregory the Great. Quite a family – three siblings, all of them canonized saints! They did more for the Church and society in those violent, cataclysmic years than any number of politicians, businessmen, or generals – and the secret to their fruitfulness was prayer. As St. Tharsilla lay on her deathbed in the year 550, a relative from three generations before, who had also been a saint, Pope St Felix II, appeared to her. He showed her a place in Heaven, saying, “Come; I will receive you into this habitation of light…” After that, her deathbed became a place of intense joy, not of sorrow and anxiety. Just a couple days after that vision, Tharsilla entered into her agony, and her last words before dying were: “Away! Away! My Savior Jesus is coming!” It was Christmas Eve. A few days afterwards, St. Tharsilla appeared to her sister, St. Emiliana, and called her to come and celebrate the Epiphany in Heaven. And indeed, St Emiliana died on the eve of January 6, the feast of the Epiphany. These two saints lived such an intimate friendship with Jesus that not even life’s greatest suffering – the sickness and death of a loved one, could steal their joy or interior peace. They truly were citizens of Heaven, even while they lived beautiful, inspiring lives here on earth. Of course, holiness like that doesn’t happen randomly. (E-Priest). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

18) The Paradox of Infant Baptism: This is one reason why many non-Catholic Christian denominations condemn the ancient, Catholic practice of infant Baptism. For them, Faith is a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ, and Baptism is the symbol of that commitment. And so, for them, it makes no sense to baptize a baby who is too young to be able to make a personal commitment. Of course, they are forgetting that Faith is much more than just a “personal commitment” – though it is certainly nothing less. Faith is first and foremost a gift of God, a gift of God’s grace. This is the difference between Faith and self-help. Jesus saved us while we were still sinners, and his saving love changed our hearts – not the other way around. When we baptize babies that’s what we are focusing on: God’s unconditional generosity in offering us salvation not as a reward for something we did, but purely out of love. The Gospels tell us about many parents who asked Jesus to come and heal their sick or dying children, even though the children couldn’t ask for themselves. Just so, Catholic parents, through the Sacrament of Baptism, ask God to come and give His gift of grace to their newborns, who are too young to ask for it themselves. So the non-Catholic Christians who criticize infant Baptism are confused about that point; they are forgetting that friendship with Christ begins with God’s free gift of grace. But they aren’t confused when they criticize Catholics for being so caught up in external rituals that we sometimes neglect our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Parents who have their children baptized, for example, but then never teach their children how to pray, are only doing half their job. And our non-Catholic brothers and sisters are right to call us to task for it. (E-Priest). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

19) Walking on Water: A Man Called Peter was a best-selling biography that was later made into a movie. It narrates the life of Peter Marshall, a Scotsman from Glasgow whose desire was to be a seaman but whose destiny took him to the U.S. Senate as chaplain. As a lad, Peter enlisted in the British Navy, but his career had lasted only two days when it was discovered that he was only 14 years old. Later, when working as a machinist and teaching Sunday School, Peter felt the call to be a minister. Persuaded by a cousin to come across to America, Peter set out in Faith to cross the cold waters of the North Atlantic. With little money, no friends and only a job reference, Peter likened himself to other men of Faith who ventured into the unknown, men like the patriarch Abraham, the explorer Columbus, and the pioneer Brigham Young. The Lord continued to guide Peter Marshall in surprising ways through the Presbyterian ministry, in marriage to Catherine, his parish assignments and finally to his fame as chaplain to the U.S. Senate. Peter Marshall died in 1949 when he was only 46, but in that short lifetime he inspired thousands of people by his preaching, his friendliness, and above all by his life of prayer. Another man called Peter, who ventured over water, is the subject of today’s Gospel. God is calling many of us to walk on the water, to move into the unknown. What kind of Faith do we have? Will we sink with Peter or set sail with Peter Marshall? (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

20) Hanging by an inch: There is a character in the classic work Don Quixote named Pancho Sanchez. Pancho Sanchez hangs in fear from the ledge of a window all night long, too frightened to let go. When morning dawns he discovers his toes are only an inch off the ground. It’s amusing to think of Simon Peter climbing out of the boat trying to imitate his Lord by walking on the water. Then, like a cartoon character, he makes the mistake of looking around. “What in the world am I doing?” he asks himself and suddenly he begins to sink. How often that happens in life! People are charting a successful course in their business, in their marriage, in their walk with Christ, and then they begin to listen to their fears. “What if I fail? What if the market fails? What if my Faith is misplaced?” and they begin slowly to sink. (King Duncan, Barking Pigs and Determined Disciples). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

21) Storm in a parish- Fr. Andrew Greeley’s story: One upon a time a battered parish priest approached his Bishop. “I want to retire,” he said. “You’re not old enough to retire.” “Yeah, but I’m worn out. My laity are fighting one another, my young people don’t come to Church. My parish Council has no guts. My teenagers drink too much. My staff members are in constant conflict. A couple of women are trying to take over the parish. Men can’t stand the tension. My collections are down. Spies are reporting me to you every week. Grammar school kids are breaking windows and writing graffiti. I receive anonymous hate mail every day.” The Bishop sighed loudly, that West of Ireland sigh which suggests the advent of a serious asthmas attack. “Let me tell you about my problems.” The two men sat in silence for a few minutes after they had exchanged woes. “Well,” said the bishop, “congratulations on having a lively parish. It’s still alive and kicking and Jesus is active in your parish boat calming the sea.” So, the pastor went back to his parish resolving to walk on the stormy parish sea with Jesus. He did not resign. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

22) A gypsy family who survived the Holocaust by Faith: In war, the saying goes, there is no one who is right. There are only those who are left. From the early 1940’s, there comes the true story of a gypsy family who survived the Holocaust of World War II. The family were members of a traveling circus that toured throughout eastern Europe. In one of the family acts, a teenage daughter would jump from a high wire with no net below, and her father would catch her. The account goes that one day her father left the apartment they were staying early, leaving the daughter alone in the apartment. Later that morning, there was a knock on the door. When she opened it, she found a stranger who said he had a message from her father. The stranger told her the message was as follows: Nazi troops were coming into town and she needed to escape. But it was far too risky for the father to enter the town or the daughter to escape in the daylight hours. Their only hope was to escape at night. So the stranger told her that at 2 in the morning she was to walk out to the northwest corner of the apartment building. And right at 2am, she was to jump from the rooftop and her father would be below to catch her. Understandably, the daughter was confused. She didn’t know the messenger. She didn’t know whether the message he gave her was actually from her father. She wasn’t even positive which corner of the apartment building was the northwest corner. Well, as the day went on the Nazis did in fact enter the town and take up positions. That night at 2am the daughter went to the rooftop. She looked down and it was pure blackness. She whispered, “Father, are you there?” No answer. And then she jumped…..and her father caught her! Leaps of faith are normally less dramatic, but they are no less real. In order to act in good Faith, the young daughter had to trust. First, she had to trust that the stranger was really sent by her father. Second, she had to trust that the message was her father’s message. Finally, she had to trust that she herself would leap from the correct corner of the rooftop, and that her father would be ready below. We find Peter making a leap of Faith. (Rev. Tom Mannebach). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

23) Sign and Countersign: In December 1874, the steamship Edwin, enroute to Australia from a Washington State port, sprang a bad leak off Vancouver Island, and had to drop anchor. Some Hesquiat Indians on the nearby shore, seeing that the ship was in distress, jumped into their canoes, and braved high waves to come to the sailors’ aid. However, the crew feared that the natives were hostile, so they gestured them away. Although these Indians were not yet Christian, they had already learned of the Christian respect for the sign of the cross. To prove that they came in peace, they blessed themselves so that the sailors could see them. As a countersign, the crew also made the sign of the cross. Then they let the Hesquiats come aboard the foundering vessel. Shortly after, rescuers and shipwrecked disembarked in the canoes and soon reached the safety of the beach. …Jesus hastened to reassure them: “Get hold of yourselves! It is I. Do not be afraid!” (Matthew, 14:27. Gospel of the day.) -Father Robert F. McNamara. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony

24) Storms confront us all the time in Ordinary Time. Sometimes those storms are shared by large numbers of people. That’s the reality of globalization. Today, no one is untouched by global warming. Islands in the South Pacific find themselves underwater. The Polar ice caps recede each year. California experiences drought, beef prices rise and fisher folks on Cape Cod find their industry dying. A small tropical storm off the coast of Africa becomes a Stage 5 Hurricane battering the Gulf Coast of the United States. A tiny virus in China becomes a global pandemic. Terrorism in Latin America floods our borders with young children. Reality confronts us in Ordinary Time. Those storms also take highly individualized form. Last week I lost a close friend from high school, a talented artist with a gallery in Rockport. His wife and daughter and their families are going through a storm today. Later in the service we will pray for others whose personal boats are being crashed by waves. Maybe it’s illness, maybe it’s a fractured relationship, maybe it’s economic uncertainty. Sometimes, the storms are visible to others and sometimes they are hidden, but the storms are very real. But today’s Gospel passage reminds us that God and Jesus are with us in life’s toughest moments, when waves threaten to drown us. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony L/20



From the Sermons.com 


In the story of creation found in the Book of Genesis, we read where Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, something which had been specifically denied them. Knowing that God is searching for them, they attempt to hide. It is a scene perhaps reminiscent of many of our childhoods when we had done something that we were not supposed to and we literally hid from our searching parents. Finally God finds them, as we know that He will, for, after all, where can we go to hide from God? God asks them why they are hiding. Do you remember the response that Adam gave: "Because, I was afraid?" 


I think this very poignant story reminds us that fear is so basic to whom we are as humans, it goes all the way back to the beginning of time. To be human is to experience fear.
 There seems to be no limit to our fears. In a peanuts cartoon strip Charlie Brown goes to Lucy for a nickels worth of psychiatric help. She proceeds to pinpoint his particular 'fear'. Perhaps, she says, you have hypengyophobia, which is the fear of responsibility. Charlie Brown says no. Well, perhaps you have ailurophobia, which is the fear of cats. No. Well, maybe you have climacophobia, which is the fear of staircases. No. Exasperated, Lucy says well, maybe you have pantophobia, which is the fear of everything. Yes, says Charles, that is the one! 


Sometimes we feel like we are afraid of everything. We are afraid of ourselves. We are afraid of people. We are afraid of the future. We are afraid of the past. We are afraid of life. We are afraid of death.  Every person, every Christian, must fight their own fears. Even Paul, the sturdy Christian warrior, had to do so... 

Your most beloved things are not always your most perfect things.
And your most beloved relationships are not always your most perfect relationships.  


Remember your "blankie?" Come on now, you all had one. And it was in perfect shape, right? It was the rattiest, most stained, most beat up thing anyone has ever seen. But the condition it was in mattered not a wit at nap time, or bedtime, or cry time.  


Or what about that stuffed animal? Come on, now. You all had one. And it was in perfect shape, right? No matter how unstuffed your stuffed animal, or how smelly and gross it was, all that mattered was that your special, indispensable friend was within arms' length when you needed a comforter.  


Isaiah 40:1 offers the ultimate "comfort food" - at least for those of us who have outgrown blankies and stuffed animals but still need to have that comfort moment when we are in the midst of the world's unending maelstrom of misery. Here it is: "Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God." Isaiah 40:1 makes it crystal clear that God is ultimately concerned with healing, not with hurting, humanity. Jesus saw himself in his first coming, not as a judge dispensing justice, but as a physician dispensing healing. (Matthew 9:9-13).


In this week's epistle text that message is once again extolled and embellished. Paul makes the point that he always makes: the point that righteousness through human attempts at good works, through the dutiful "actions" of keeping the law, will always result in failure. Humans just cannot be "good enough" do-gooders to get in good with God...

We All Need This Boat 


Our friend William Willimon, the Dean of the Chapel at Duke, tells of a visit he made one afternoon to the office of a lawyer in his congregation. It was just a drop-in. Will says he did not know the man that well - his wife seemed to bear the church interest for the family. Listen to the story in Will's own words:

"It was at the end of the day. I entered the outer office of his law firm. Everyone had left. All was dark, except for a light coming from the inner office. He called to me. Invited me to come back to his office.


"'Didn't expect to see you here, preacher,' he said in a voice that sounded tired. 'Come on in, I was just about to fix myself a drink. Can I interest you in one?'


"'Sure,' I said, 'if it's caffeine free, diet.'


"He poured out the drinks, offered me a seat, reared himself back in his chair, feet on the disordered desk before him.

"'What sort of day have you had?' I asked.
"'A typical day,' he said, again sounding tired. 'Misery.'
"'Oh, I'm sorry. What was miserable about it?' I asked.

"'My day began with my assisting a couple evict their aging father from his house so they could take everything he has while he's in the nursing home. All legal. Not particularly moral, but legal. Then, by lunchtime I was helping a client evade his workers' insurance payments. It's legal! This afternoon, I have been enabling a woman to ruin her husband's life forever with the sweetest divorce you ever saw. That's my day.'


"What could I say?


"'Which,' he continued, 'helps explain why I'm in your church on a Sunday morning.'

"'I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed,' I said, 'thinking what on earth I have to say in a sermon which might be helpful to you on a Sunday.'

"'It's not the sermon that I come for, preacher,' he said, fixing his gaze upon me. 'It's the music. I go a whole week sometimes with nothing beautiful, little good, until Sunday. Sometimes, when that choir sings, it is for me the difference between life and death.'"



Why are YOU here? You don't have to answer. The fact that you ARE here is enough. You NEED this ship. We all do. Stay in the boat. Because it is here we hear, "Take heart. It is I; don't be afraid."


David E. Leininger, Stay in the Boat!

Humor: Missing the Rocks 


There is a joke concerning this text that has gone around for years about three ministers out fishing together in a small boat. One of them, suddenly realizing that he had left his tackle box in the cabin, stepped out of the boat, and walked on the water over to shore. Just then, the second one said he had forgotten his faithful fishing hat on the front seat of the car. He too stepped out of the boat and walked on the water over to shore. When they had both returned, the third minister who had watched this remarkable demonstration with mouth open and eyes wide, reasoned to himself "My faith is as strong as theirs. I can do that too."


So he stepped out of the boat and promptly sank to the bottom. His two companions dragged him out, but once they got him in the boat, he was determined not to be shown up. He stepped out once more, and immediately sank again. As his friends pulled him out, he sputtered, "My faith is as strong as yours. Why can't I walk on the water?"

The first two looked at each another and one finally said, "We'd better tell him where those rocks are before he drowns himself."



David E. Leininger, Mayday!
____________________________________
 Do Not Be Afraid

 "Do not be afraid." The scriptures make this announcement over and over again. These are usually the first words out of angel's mouths. Abraham, Moses, Mary, Joseph, shepherds tending their flocks, Paul sitting in a jail cell, the women looking for Christ's body at Easter and disciples rowing a boat in the strong wind all hear these words. In all, these words occur almost 100 times in the scriptures. Apparently, humans are very fearful creatures and we are in need of faith to function properly in the world.

Todd Weir, Do Not Be Afraid

 Hanging by an Inch 


There is a character in the classic work Don Quixote named Pancho Sanchez. Pancho Sanchez hangs in fear from the ledge of a window all night long, too frightened to let go. When morning dawns he discovers his toes are only an inch off the ground. It's amusing to think of Simon Peter climbing out of the boat trying to imitate his Lord by walking on the water. Then, like a cartoon character, he makes the mistake of looking around. "What in the world am I doing?" he asked himself and suddenly he begins to sink. How often that happens in life. People are charting a successful course in their business, in their marriage, in their walk with Christ, and then they begin to listen to their fears. "What if I fail? What if the market fails? What if my faith is misplaced?" and they begin slowly to sink.

King Duncan, Barking Pigs and Determined Disciples

 Unbounded Faith

 This summer, I took part in a chaplaincy program at Crouse hospital, where one of my assigned units was the neonatal intensive care unit. There I watched babies born 1, 2, 3 months early, struggle for their lives, struggle to eat, to breathe, to gain even an ounce. The mothers there, whether they considered themselves religious or not, suddenly found themselves having to rely on faith, suddenly found themselves believing in, hoping for, depending on miracles. It was hard for an outsider, even a chaplain, to understand the kind of faith required in this special nursery. 


At first I would look at some of the tiniest babies, some of the 1 lb. babies, and try to be realistic. To prepare myself for the grief I might experience, I tried to expect the real possibility that the smallest babies might not make it. I hoped for the best, but I tried to balance my hopes with realism, with the reality confronting me, so that I wouldn't be disappointed if a miracle didn't happen, so that I wouldn't be hurt if I did have to confront sorrow and loss. But the mothers there would tell you that my attitude wasn't what was needed there - they would tell you that no matter what the odds, they had to hope for a miracle, with all their heart, with all the faith they could muster. There was nothing practical about their faith, no consideration for realism in what they dreamed of happening. Perhaps this was the kind of faith Jesus was asking of Peter out on the sea that day. Unbounded faith, unrestrained, unmeasured, uncalculated. Perhaps this is the kind of faith Jesus is asking, demanding, expecting of us.

 Beth Quick, What Did You/do We Expect?

 Now I Know Why Jesus Walked! 


This is a familiar story. Mark Twain refers to it in one of his books. He recalls a visit to the Holy Land and a stay in Capernaum. It was a moonlit night, so he decided to take his wife on a romantic boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Twain asked a man in a rowboat how much he would charge to take them out on the water. The man saw Twain's white suit, white shoes and white hat and supposed he was a rich Texan. So he said the cost would be twenty-five dollars. Twain walked away as he said, "Now I know why Jesus walked." 

 David Leininger, Stay in the Boat!, www.eSermons.com

 Motorcycle Churches

 Even churches can know what it is to walk on the water. Wes Seliger is an unconventional Episcopal clergyman who loves motorcycles. He tells about being in a motorcycle shop one day, drooling over a huge Honda 750 and wishing that he could buy it. A salesman came over and began to talk about his product. He talked about speed, acceleration, excitement, the attention-getting growl of the pipes, racing, risk. He talked about how the good-looking girls would be attracted to anyone riding on such a cycle.

Then he discovered that Wes was a minister. It always happens, doesn't it? Immediately the salesman changed his language and even the tone of his voice. He spoke quietly and talked about good mileage and visibility. It was indeed a "practical" vehicle.



Wes observed: "Lawnmower salespersons are not surprised to find clergypersons looking at their merchandise; motorcycle salespersons are. Why? Does this tell us something about clergypersons and about the church? Lawnmowers are slow, safe, sane, practical, and middle-class. Motorcycles are fast, dangerous, wild, thrilling." Then Wes asks a question: "Is being a Christian more like mowing a lawn or like riding a motorcycle? Is the Christian life safe and sound or dangerous and exciting?" He concludes, "The common image of the church is pure lawnmower--slow, deliberate, plodding. Our task is to take the church out on the open road, give it the gas, and see what the old baby will do!" 

Is our church a lawn mower church or a motorcycle church? Maybe it's time we took more risks for God.

 King Duncan, Don't Look Down, www.Sermons.com

 Augustine on Miracles

 "Miracles are not a contradiction of nature. They are only in contradiction to what we know of nature."

 St. Augustine
 Trust in the Father in the Midst of the Storm


 One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."

 Traditional Story


 Staring at the Cross


 Alexander Solzhenitsyn said that only once during his long imprisonment in a labor camp in the Soviet Union did he become so discouraged that he thought about suicide. He was outdoors, on a work detail, and he had reached a point where he no longer cared whether he lived or died. When he had a break, he sat down, and a stranger sat beside him, someone he had never seen before and would never see again. For no apparent reason, this stranger took a stick and drew a cross on the ground. Solzhenitsyn sat and stared at that cross for a long while. He later wrote, "Staring at that cross, I realized that therein lies freedom." At that point - in the midst of a storm - he received new courage and the will to live. The storm didn’t end that day, but through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Solzhenitsyn found the strength to ride it out.


 I don’t know what storm of life will come your way this week, or what storm you may be enduring at this very moment. But I know this: even as the storm rages around you, if you will listen very carefully with your heart, you will hear a gentle voice calling to you, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”(Mark 6:50) And in time the storm will pass. And our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, will still be there.


*******
Summary:  


A. Fear not! Fear Not!


1.     First, we must confront our fears.
2.     Second, we must understand that too much doubt can sink us.
3.     Third, we must remember that regardless of what happens, God will be with us. 


BThree Mysteries!


1.     The mystery of the prophet Elijah who met the Lord on the mountain of Sinai;
2.     The mystery of the election of Israel of whom Jesus was born according to the flesh;
3.     The mystery of the apostle Peter who walked on the water and whom Jesus saved by taking by the hand. 


Dear sisters and brothers, "courage! It is I! Do not be afraid." Whenever fear comes and knocks at our door, we need to bear in mind these splendid words of Jesus. Countless thousands in every generation have proved that when Christ comes, the storm becomes a calm, the tumult becomes a peace, what cannot be done is done, the unbearable be­comes bearable. What about us? (Pause) 


Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate these mysteries. With the apostle Peter we recognize that we are all sinners and that we are not worthy to approach the Lord. So we implore his help as we cry to him: Lord, save us! 


We do not know how to be silent in our lives in order to recognize your passage. Lord, save us!
We sometimes doubt your love when the boat of our life is beaten by waves. Lord, save us!
We sometimes forget your presence when the wind of passion rises in our hearts. Lord, save us! 


May Jesus Christ our Lord, who saved his apostle Peter by taking him by the hand, save us from the waves of sin. May he forgive us our faults and bring us to eternal life. 


Today still, as in the time of the Gospel, Peter's boat is tossed about in the storm. Let us pray that the Lord may keep it under the protection of his love. 


That, like the prophet Elijah, we may go to meet the Lord and we may recognize his passage.


That, in our everyday lives, love and truth may meet; justice and peace may embrace. 


For the people of Israel, of whom the Messiah was born according to the flesh. That they may recognize in Jesus their Messiah, the God who is eternally blessed. 


That, in imitation of Jesus, we may know how to withdraw in solitude sometimes and collect our thoughts in prayer.                               


For those who, in the height of the storm, are anguished by doubts


and think that they see phantoms everywhere. May they hear the word of Jesus who says to them: "Have confidence! It is I. Do not be afraid!"


For those who are afraid that they will founder like Peter in the midst of the waves. May they seize the hand that Jesus extends to save them. Each time the Lord comes to us in the events of our lives, may we prostrate ourselves before him while saying with the apostles: "Truly, you are the Son of God." 


Let us pray also for all our other intentions.


God of our forefathers and mothers and the God of Jesus Christ, Saviour of Elijah, of Israel, of Peter: Take us by the hand, lead us into your Kingdom, and watch over us for ever and ever.


Alternate Conclusion


In you, Lord Jesus, love and truth have met; justice and peace have embraced. We pray to you now: Make every moment of our lives reveal your mystery of love and of truth, of justice and of peace, to the glory of your Father. 


Stories for Reflection: 


During World War II, in London there was a blitz bombing at night. The people stayed each night in underground protection. But one Christian lady just stayed at home and slept through all the bombing. When asked about it, she said, "Well, my God neither slumbers nor sleeps, and there's no need for both of us to stay awake!"


Messages:


1) Storms reveal to us the true source of our strength. It is the presence of Jesus which gives us peace even in the wildest storms of life: storms of sorrow, storms of doubt, tension and uncertainty, storms of anxiety and worries, storms of anger and despair, storms of temptations. Storms reveal our inability to save ourselves and point us to the infinite ability of God to save us. When Jesus shows up in our life’s storms, we find that we gain strength to do the seemingly impossible. For example, when Jesus shows up he makes marriages out of mistakes, he invigorates, restores, and empowers us to reach the unreachable, to cross the un-crossable. Storms let us know that without him, we can do nothing, without him we are doomed to fail. Yet, when Jesus shows up, we gain the strength to join Paul, saying, “In Christ I can do all things.” But this demands a personal relationship with God, with Jesus, enhanced through prayer, meditative study of scripture and active sacramental life.


2) Don’t put limits to God’s presence: There are those who would limit God’s presence for their own comfort or security or to keep themselves in power. In years past there were those who would deny God’s presence in slaves. There have been those who would ignore God’s presence in their enemies. There are those who would refuse to believe that God is present in the murderer sitting on death row, in those who are marginalized by our society: the gay person, the addict, the person living with AIDS, the illegal alien, the handicapped. It is in situations like these that we have to get out of the boat, surprise the others and show them the reflection of God in such people. Let us always look for the ways to be surprised by our God and the opportunities to wake one another up to the beauty, the power and the nearness of our loving, providing and protecting God.


1) Ministers walking on water! There is the story about three clergymen: a Jewish Rabbi, a Protestant minister and a Catholic priest. They were fishing together. They rowed to the middle of a small lake and cast their lines. Soon they ran out of bait. The rabbi volunteered to go for more. Calmly he stepped off the boat and walked across the water to the shore. When he returned in the same manner, it was discovered that the trio’s canteens were empty. Immediately the minister collected them and, like the rabbi, walked across the water to the shore and filled them up and returned. Later, when the men grew hungry, they realized they had forgotten a lunch basket, whereupon the priest quickly rose, stepped off the boat and immediately plunged to the bottom of the lake. When he had surfaced, he heard the rabbi say to the minister, “I suppose we really should have told him where the stones are.”


When we reflect on our faith, we often under­stand it in terms of our belief in the teachings of Christ. We normally include in it also what­ever the Church teaches us in his name. But faith in Christ means certainly much more than these things. On the day of our Baptism, the Spirit gave us the light to understand Jesus' teachings, and added to that light, a trust in his power and goodness, and a convic­tion of his closeness to us. This trust and con­viction prompts us to abandon ourselves into Jesus' hands, come what may, in life. Faith means precisely this: an abandoning of ourselves into the hands of the Risen Lord; it means to put our trust in his power and in his goodness.           


This faith in Christ can be compared to a seed, which God plants in our heart. It sprouts at Baptism, and under the influence of the Spirit within us, grows into a tree. Our task in this world is to see to it that it keeps growing throughout life, yields fruits of love, and eventually, brings forth eternal life at our death. 


But our faith is threatened throughout our lives. The readings of today, particularly the Gospel, give us precious advice as to how to behave when our faith in Christ is endangered. Whenever we get upset for something, it will always be because we fail to recognize Jesus in the events or persons that upset us. Nothing ever happens in our life in which God does not have a hand, sin excepted.  


"Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid!" What a tremendous power and encouragement these words of Jesus contain...! The trouble is that we do not stop to listen to them in the midst of our worries. And yet Jesus always "walks towards us" whenever we are in trouble; he is never far from us. 


(Balloons story; Sept 22, 2001 in Chicago emigration). Let us not misunderstand the Gospel; it is not that all trouble cease once Jesus is with us; what Jesus calms down first of all is the storm within our own heart, helping us to accept God's plans with joy. Then our progress towards heaven "the place we are making for" becomes a fast progress. We shall be there in 'no time' and that should give us further courage in the struggle, and in­crease our trust in Jesus."  


On my part when I am in trouble, during times of trial, do I become so engrossed in my wor­ries so as to forget Jesus, who has the power to save me from any situation? Whenever I face difficult situations, do I get too much preoccu­pied, anxiously looking around for human help, rather than making a fervent prayer, "Lord, save me!”

Trust in the Father in the Midst of the Storm One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."
 


THANKSGIVING


You made yourself known of old to Elijah in the light breeze.
You make yourself known today to us in this Eucharist.


    Blessed are you, 0 Lord!


You made a Covenant of old with Israel.
You make a Covenant today with us in this Eucharist.


    Blessed are you, O Lord!


 Of old you saved Peter by taking him by the hand.
Still today you save us in this Eucharist.


    Blessed are you, O Lord! 


DISMISSAL:


God of our fathers and Father of Jesus Christ, Saviour of Elijah, of Israel, of Peter: Take us by the hand, lead us into your Kingdom, and watch over us for ever and ever.
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Jesus,
Truly You are the Son of God. I bow down and worship You in because You have revealed Your glory to me during the storms of my soul. Gigantic waves of sin and suffering buffet me. Howling gusts of doubt and distress threaten to disturb my peace. My distorted night vision is terrifying. Fear of the unknown and unseen cripples me.

Through the dismal darkness of a restless night, I long to hear Your voice calling me to “Come.” I want boldness and courage to be like Peter. While the other eleven sat in the boat paralyzed by panic, Peter recognized Your voice and took a giant leap forward. With my eyes fixed on You, I too will step out of my comfort zone to accomplish the impossible.

Please give me faith to focus on You, forgetting the fierce waves and ferocious wind. Forgive me for all the times I’ve fearfully stayed in the boat and missed divine endeavors. I’m sorry for the times I was skeptical of Your power, presence and provision. Even in my faithlessness, please graciously reach out and save me!
 


Lord, I just want to know Your voice, and obey Your call. In difficult situations and challenging circumstances, please keep Your mighty hand on me. Gazing on the glow of Your face, I’ll confidently walk by faith and experience the exuberance of Your power. Those who sit worried and watching will wonder at what they’ve witnessed. Mesmerized by the miracle, they, too, will believe that You truly are the Son of God. Together, we’ll bow down and worship You for the great things You have done in the name of Jesus. Amen. (Beth Rudy)

Do you hear the Voice in the night calling you to “Come?” Will you risk stepping out of the boat or remain in the boat gripped with fear? I encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus and step out in faith. With your eyes fixed on him, He will give you the power to walk on water through your fearsome storm too.



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Yellavva (standing in the middle) Yellavva was helped by her father, brother and cousins in crossing the river


An Indian woman in her ninth month of pregnancy has swum a river swollen by monsoon rain to give birth in hospital.

Yellavva used dried pumpkins and gourds as bouyancy aids to swim nearly a kilometre from her river island village to safety in southern Karnataka state.


She said she was "scared" but wanted her baby born safely - there is no medical centre in her village and she did not want to give birth at home.


Villagers and doctors have described her swim as an amazing achievement.


Yellavva, 22, is a resident of Neelakantarayanagadde, a small island-village on the Krishna river in Yadgir district, some 400km (250 miles) north of Bangalore.


The only way to travel from there to the mainland is by a raft - which doesn't operate when the river is too choppy.


When Yellavva crossed the river last Wednesday, she says its swirling waters were rising 12 to 14 feet and even experienced swimmers would have hesitated to get into the water at the time.


"I was scared. But it was for my child that I got the determination to get over all my fear and cross the rising river waters," she told BBC Hindi.


Yellavva was helped by her father, brother and cousins who swam with her.


"My brother went in front. I was next. My brother and cousins had tied dried hollowed pumpkin and bottle gourds around me so I was afloat," she said.


Her brother Lakshman, who held on to the rope tied to the gourds and pumpkins, said: "My father was right behind her. Normally, the distance is a little more than half a kilometre. But, it took us about an hour to get her across. As we reached mid-point, the current was very very strong."


The heavy current pushed them far downstream, making the distance they swam nearly one kilometre.


Yellavva said the swim made her tired, but a doctor who examined her on arrival at the government medical centre in the nearby village of Kekkera said "she is fine and resting at a relative's home".


"Her baby, due in 20 to 25 days, is fine too," Dr Veena said.


Yellavva's daring swim has won her much praise.


"I have been here for seven years. A handful of people have crossed the river with some help. However, I have not seen any pregnant woman crossing the river when it is in this state and that too in the ninth month of pregnancy," Dr Veena said.


"She is an example of courage and determination. The first thing that struck me when I took her photograph was that she was so determined to cross the river in spate," said Venkatesh Dore, a reporter for a local newspaper who took Yellavva's photo.