Homily 19th Sunday A 2014
A teenage boy had just got his driver’s license and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the car. His father said he’d make a deal with his son: ‘You bring your grades up, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.‘
The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed on it.
After about six weeks his father said, ‘Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t gotten your hair cut.‘
The boy said, ‘You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair…and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.’
To this his father replied, ‘Did you also notice they all walked everywhere they went?’
Well, Jesus even walked on the water in today’s gospel.
Experience teaches us that if we want to get something we need to do something about it. If we want a thing to happen, we need to make it happen.
This is applicable to our salvation too. But this does not mean that we can do something to earn our salvation. The gift of salvation is a free, undeserved gift from God for us. It is by the grace of God. What we need to do however, is to respond to this offer of salvation in faith, and to bear fruits – the fruits of salvation. The good news for us is that God offers us opportunities to realize this.
We therefore, need to meet God halfway in this, just as praying everyday to win the lottery doesn’t help much if we don’t go and buy the ticket. As St Augustine would say: “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.” (Cf St. Augustine, Sermo 169,11,13:PL 38,923; and Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1847).
How to meet God halfway?
Our readings today offer us ways to realize this.
In the first reading, like the prophet Elijah, we need to stand up as a witness to the true God despite opposition, persecution or even imminent death. Elijah in the reading was running for his life because of his vocal opposition to the pagan god Baal and the prophets of Baal. We can learn then from the courage of Elijah. But we need not look only at a distant past here nor we are to look only at a distant figure. As of date, there have been many Christians who were martyred in the faith because they, like Elijah stood up for their Christian belief even in the face of death. I’m thinking of the many Christians in many parts of the world right here and now, in our day and age, persecuted and martyred for the faith they professed. So we are here today celebrating this faith in relative peace and quiet, while at this moment too there are Christians in the world celebrating their faith in hiding, anxiously, because they just don’t want or they can’t afford their faith to die in their homeland. (See: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/number-of-christian-martyrs-increased-sharply-in-2013)
The example of Elijah also teaches us to sort out our lives and examine ourselves to eradicate the other gods we may have put up alongside the true God.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in the Philippines, could help us in our reflection on this. This is part of the talk he gave during the 49th Eucharistic Congress in Canada in 2008.
The Cardinal said:
How many factory workers are being denied right wages for the god called ‘PROFIT?’
How many women are being sacrificed to the god called ‘DOMINATION?’
How many children are being sacrificed to the god called ‘LUST?
How many trees, rivers, hills are being sacrificed to the god called ‘PROGRESS?’
How many poor people are being sacrificed to the god called ‘GREED?’
And defenseless people sacrificed to the god of ‘NATIONAL SECURITY?’
In the Second Reading, like Paul, we need to keep up with our faith and never despair despite the ups and downs in our lives, despite the challenges in faith we are to face. At the same time, we are to do our best to help others realize and recognize the love of God for us and for God’s plan of salvation for us. This is a call to witness, to spread the gospel. Yes, spreading the gospel is a tough call because it requires commitment and dedication. Furthermore, in answering this call to evangelization does not guarantee us of immediate fruits of our labour. Yet, we need to realize in there that we can only sow the seeds of faith. God is the one who can make it grow. And He doesn’t work in time. He works in eternity, and according to Mr Bean, ‘It’s a heck of a long time.’
In the gospel today, Peter exemplifies for us a way to meet God halfway. He calls on to the Lord, “Lord, save me” then he stretches out his hand to hang on to Jesus. This is a call to trust in God not only when we are in difficult situation but at all times. This is a call to have God our priority. It is very important because God is not only the source of life, he is life himself. Apart from him, Jesus said in the gospel of St John, we ‘can do nothing.’ (Jn 15:5).
C.S. Lewis makes a beautiful analogy to show how important God is for us.
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.” ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
So for us to be assured of eternal happiness, we need to do something. Like that teenage boy in the story above, we need to do our part, and listen to what Christ tells us to do, so that we will get what really is reserved for us for all eternity.
Let us hang on to our faith and in God. The beauty of keeping up the faith and recognizing the presence and the works of God in our experiences is that we find more meaning in our lives and in what we do. This is so true and I’d like to share with you what I found posted on my Facebook wall the other day. It’s a clever way of putting it but it speaks truly of how turn things around. It says: Only God can turn a Mess into a message, Test into a testimony, Trials into triumph and Victim into Victory.
Questions to reflect on today:
Is God still the one behind the wheel in our car of life?
Or are we like those people who don’t even stop to give God a ride?