19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 13, 2017.
1Kings 19:9, 11-13; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33
When Christ becomes real to us
“Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water towards Jesus.”
She had grown up among many siblings in her poor Bangladeshi family. She was the only one that her parents could afford to send to school with the hope that she would help the family out financially. She sensed a call to leave her job and all things to follow Jesus as a religious sister in an international community of sisters here in the Philippines. With great pains to her and to her loved ones, she received the blessing of her parents and prepared to begin her formation process. She had a motor accident on the day of her departure while on the way to the airport with her family that left her mother crippled. She still boarded the plane the next day and left for the Philippines to begin her formation for the religious life.
She narrates her vocation story with deep pains but always ends with these words, “I know that Jesus is here with me and that He will take care of my mother and family in His own way and time and more than I could ever do for them.” How can Jesus be so real for her despite all that she had gone through in doing what she perceived as His will for her? How can Jesus be so real for us that we know with that certainty that we are never alone in the moments of life? Her story shows us that Jesus Christ becomes real for us when we are willing to take a risk or to sacrifice something dear to us just to be close to Jesus or to imitate Jesus more closely. We give God a chance to act and to reveal His veiled presence in our lives when we are willing and ready to risk something to be close to Jesus or to speak and act like Jesus has done.
Today’s Gospel passage begins with the disciples seeing Jesus Christ as a ghost walking on the troubled sea, “When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said.” But the Gospel passage ends with Jesus being so real to them that they acknowledged His divinity, “Those who were in the boat did Him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
But how did the disciples move from seeing Jesus as a phantom, a ghost, to Jesus being so real with them that they affirmed His own divinity? This is possible because one man, Peter, chose to take a risk and come out of the safety of his boat to journey to Jesus, to be with Him on the troubled waters and to do what Jesus was doing, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Upon Jesus’ command, “Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water towards Jesus.” Yes, Peter did not persevere long in walking on water but began to drown soon. He may look like a failure, one who lost his faith and succumbed to fear; but at least he gave Jesus a chance to act and to show him that He (Jesus) is so close to us and can save us in the storms, “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” They thus ceased seeing Jesus as a ghost but Jesus became so real to them.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, how real is the living Christ to each of us today? Is Jesus just a memory, like a hero of the past who has moved on and all we have are stories of Him and His saving actions? Is our Eucharist just a brief encounter with the living Christ who we think abandons us in our life situations? Are our life experiences more real to us than the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst? In short, is Jesus Christ a mere phantom or ghost to us or is He the Son of God who holds all of reality in His hands and for whom all things exist?
What are we willing to risk or to sacrifice to be more united with Christ today and to imitate Him more faithfully? Jesus Christ is inviting us out of our own comfort zone and situations to take a risk and draw closer to Him in readiness to imitate His words and actions. What are we willing to risk so as to love selflessly like Jesus? Are we ready to speak the truth in world that is ready to condemn us as bigots just like Jesus, the Truth, who suffered death at the hands of His countrymen because He revealed the Father’s love for us? Are we willing to risk losing our reputation, the approval of our acquaintances, our comforts, pleasures, etc just to be with Christ and to follow more closely in His footsteps? Jesus Christ becomes real for us only when we risk or sacrifice anything for the sake of greater unity with Christ and closer imitation of Him. This is how we allow God to act and reveal Himself to us in our daily lives.
We must never be afraid of failures when we sense Jesus inviting us to take a risk for His sake. A relative of mine once asked me this question shortly before I went to the seminary, “What would you do if you did not make it and become a priest at the end after giving up your job and all that you had achieved in life? How would you integrate back into society and continue your life after so many wasted years?” I look back now and I know that through the good and the bad moments of priestly and religious formation and ministry, I have seen that hand of Jesus reaching out to draw me out of the waters of failures, sin and sufferings. I have heard His voice booming louder over the loud winds and storms and calling me to courage and perseverance in my vocation. Like Peter, I have seen and experienced Jesus acting in my life. He is definitely no ghost to me. I thank God for the grace to take a risk to follow Him.
The Blessed Virgin Mary took a great risk when she said yes to the request of St. Gabriel at the Annunciation. She almost got herself stoned to death if St. Joseph had disowned the child Jesus. She risked and sacrificed her comfort by giving birth to Him in a manger and fleeing to Egypt with Him. She risked her life to journey with her condemned Son to Calvary and to stand with Him on Calvary, associating with Him to the very end in the face of such hatred from her own people. In all these, she waited patiently for the Resurrection of her Son because Jesus and His promise to her of the Resurrection were more real than anything she could experience. May we learn from Mary to be ready to risk and sacrifice all for the sake of Christ so that Jesus may not remain a ghost to us.
The risen Christ whom we encounter in today’s Eucharist says to each of us, “Come.” He invites us out of our comfort zones to draw closer to Him and to imitate Him closely in our world today. He invites us to pray, love God and others, serve all people, forgive all, worship God alone, bear witness to the Father etc just as He has done. It is risky and there will surely be failures on our part. But if we never cease taking risks for His sake, ready to sacrifice all just to be more united and conformed to Jesus, Jesus will never be a ghost to us but He will be so real to us that no matter what we are going through in life, we shall say to Him, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!