19th Sun [A] 2005

Fr. Charles Irvin

1 Kings 19:9, 11-13; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-23

Hurricanes, earthquakes, firestorms, storms at sea, famine, poverty, and terrible perils – all appear in today’s readings.

In our times we face rogue nations building nuclear weapons, terrorism, suicide bombers, fanatic fundamentalists randomly bombing and killing innocent people riding on subways and busses. In our own personal lives we face other disasters – cancer, terrible diseases, loved ones on drugs, alcoholism in our families, sudden divorces, business collapses, loss of jobs, and so forth. We find our own lives surrounded by chaos, the winds of change and the earthquakes of our times changing our social order and national culture. Only one in four households today have the typical arrangement of mom and dad living together at home with their children. Stated another way, only one in four children find themselves in typical, normal homes.

Drugs, AIDS, absent fathers, divorce, an unstable employment market, and a surrounding culture that’s alien and hostile to the normal family are the earthquakes and our storms that threaten us. Child abuse, pornography, sexual wantonness, and a blatant media exploitation of sex and violence for money assault the moral character of our youngsters and tear away the fabric normalcy. Teen gangs roam our big city streets at will, while our metropolitan law enforcement agencies operate in apparent powerlessness to take back control of our cities from the pimps, prostitutes, pushers, and gangs that rule the streets.

Where, it is asked, is God in all of this? The answers we hear are many and varied. “It’s God’s will,” we are told. There is no God, others tell us. Some ask: “If God is such a good God, why does He allow such things to happen?” Others tell us that God is a myth constructed by weak-minded people to help prop themselves up in the face of suffering, disaster and loss. “How,” some ask, “can you believe in a God that allows such things to happen?”

What should we believe? What should we think in this moral storm that surrounds us?

To answer, I take you back to the beginning of things, to the Old Testament’s Book of Genesis. There we find God creating order out of chaos. He pushes back the boundaries of chaos into order to create an ordered and purposeful universe. Then God goes on to invest us with the dignity and the task of joining with Him in bringing creation to completion. He charges us to work with Him in pushing back the boundaries of chaos. He puts His faith in us to work with Him in overcoming all that would smother life, charging us to be His stewards over the world He has made and given over to us. Instead of questioning God perhaps we should ask ourselves this question: “How well have we cooperated with God?”

In the New Testament we find God in His Christ entering into our broken world share His presence with us. Christ Jesus, God the Son, not only enters into our broken world but also Himself suffers in it. God’s involvement, God’s presence, is with us as we face sin and suffering. God is not a disinterested and aloof God – He shares with us all that we face in a dislocated and incomplete world.

Thus it is that we find Peter in today’s Gospel account walking on our world’s stormy waters. Peter relied on God’s presence in Christ – he was walking toward Christ keeping his eyes fixed on Christ. The greater thing was that Peter was not so much walking on those storm-tossed waters as he was keeping his eyes fixed on Christ and was walking toward Him. But while Peter was making his way to Christ, disaster struck. And what was that disaster? Peter allowed fear to take a hold of his heart. Fear made him divert is attention away from Christ and he became fixated on the stormy waters.

All of us need to pay attention to our fears. But we must remember that fear controls our choices more than any other force in our lives. Think of the decisions you have made, the actions you have taken, that were based more on fear than on confidence, choices that were based more on fear than on love. Fear is a powerful tool in the hands of the Evil One. Fear is one of the greatest weapons of the devil.

Mind you, I am not talking about questions. In the mind of Jesus, it is fear that is the opposite of faith, not doubt. Questions are quests. People who question have faith that there is an answer; they believe that there is an answer to their question. Fear, on the other hand, brings with it despair. That is the opposite of faith, not questioning.

Confidence is the word we need to take into our hearts and souls today. Confidence! Confidence comes from a Latin word that means, “to believe with.” We cannot have confidence when we’re isolated and all alone. We cannot have confidence all by ourselves. No, we can only have confidence when there’s another near us.

And that’s the point of today’s readings. One can find confidence, even in the worst of storms, even in the most chaotic of earthquakes. You can go through the worst that life can throw at you only IF you keep up your contact with God. No prayer? No confidence. No coming to Mass? No confidence. No sharing in the life of the Church, in the Body of Christ? No confidence. Soon you’ll take your eyes off of Jesus, and just like Peter, you’ll sink. Soon you’ll only be able to hear the screaming wind, the awful noise, and the deafening roar of the storms and winds that shake the very foundations of your life. And without the voice of God and the eyes of Jesus to hold you steady, you’ll either be blown away or you’ll drown.

Confidence, con-fidere, means to believe with. To believe with whom? With Jesus. “Place not your trust in men who have power,” says the Psalmist in Psalm 146, “or in any mortal man. He cannot save, he yields his breath and goes back to the earth from whence he came, and on that day all his scheme shall perish.”

Where is God in all of this? He is here. He is here in His Christ. Do we have faith? If so, we will have the confidence and the strength that comes with Christ’s presence in our lives. With that we can face anything life throws at us.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”