Sunday scripture reflections for Aug. 13

Aug. 13, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a

Ps 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14

Rom 9:1-5

Mt 14:22-33

Utter disbelief was the sentiment deeply felt in the hearts and minds of many as the rapid spread of COVID-19 brought normal life to a shuddering halt in March 2020. We might remember vividly how our daily routines changed instantly in the face of the viral threat. The most gifted writers and filmmakers could not have imagined the unfolding scene as the coronavirus unleashed its devastating effects on a vulnerable world. As it spread rapidly, the disease left in its trail, fear, uncertainty, hardship, suffering, and loss.

The strange sense of helplessness that gripped the world during the global pandemic helps us identify with the disciples who were tossed about in their boat on a stormy sea, as recounted in this Sunday's Gospel. We are told that "during the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. 'It is a ghost,' they said, and they cried out in fear."

Jesus responds with deeply assuring words to his disciples, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Jesus offers faith as the divine response to the deep, even irrational fears that threaten to overcome us amidst the challenges of this world. Peter, at Jesus' invitation, attempts to walk on the water but falters in fear and begins to sink into the sea. Jesus reminds the disciples of the need for faith in him to overcome the storm of the sea and the storms of life.

Faith in Jesus is the antidote to the fears that can disturb or even paralyze us.

As the world began to grapple with an unprecedented global lockdown, Pope Francis preached a powerful homily to all of us. Standing in a deserted St. Peter's Square on March 27, the Holy Father spoke these reassuring words to the world, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? Faith begins when we realize we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder; we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars." Pope Francis added, "Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them."

In the first reading, the prophet Elijah encounters the Lord not in the noise of the wind, fire, or earthquake. Rather, God is revealed in a tiny whispering sound that calms the prophet's fears and brings him into loving contact with God. Even today, God's word continues to speak to the depths of our fears and anxieties, as we pray with confident hope, "speak to me, Lord."

Question: How do Jesus' words in today's Gospel speak to your fears and anxieties?