"Do Not Be Afraid"

Nineteenth Sunday Ordinary


9 August 2020

“Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” Mt. 14:27

Today’s readings remind us of the mysteries of God’s presence among us. In the First Reading (I9: 9, 11-13), the prophet Elias is exhausted from his labors and rests in a cave waiting for the Lord. The Lord is not in a mighty wind or an earthquake, but He is in a gentle breeze. In the gospel (Mt.14:22-34), the apostles who have been sent away from Jesus after the multiplication of the loaves and fishes are in a desperate situation on the lake as a powerful storm ready to capsize their boat. They are alone and without Jesus, but Jesus sees them from afar after His night of prayer and comes walking on the water. The apostles were filled with fear as they see Jesus approaching them walking on water. They think that He is a ghost. According to St. Mark, whose gospel was told to him by St. Peter, the apostles see Jesus almost walking past them as if to continue on His way to the other side of the lake. They all begin to shout, and Jesus says, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” Mk. 6:50 These are most consoling words which we have all heard in the secrecy of our hearts when we pray for divine guidance during our troubles.

God’s Will Brings Us Peace.

If we are doing God’s will, we need never be afraid of any obstacle that is in our way in accomplishing His will for us. God always gives us the graces we need for our vocation in life. We see this in today’s gospel in the action of Peter who calls out to Jesus: “Lord if it is thou, bid me to come to thee over the water.” Mt. 14:28. This is both a bold and courageous act. Jesus is pleased with Peter’s good intentions and permits him to walk on the water. As Peter was walking on the water, he began to look around and see the raging wind and sea around him: “But seeing the wind was strong, he was afraid; and as he began to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord , save me!’” Mt. 14.30 He forgets that Jesus is supporting him with His miraculous powers. Peter gives in to his human feelings. So, it is with us who doubt in the divine assistance which is always with us. We, too, need to cry out, “Lord, save me.” Mt. 14:30 The Lord will always save us, but it would have been better if we had more faith and realized that Jesus is always there for us. We should never doubt. “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” Mt. 14:31

Why we lose faith?

Whenever we distanced ourselves from God, then we too will lose faith and begin to sink like Peter. When we feel ourselves slipping down in our life, we should examine our consciences. Maybe, our life of piety has been lax, and we are not praying as much as we should or as well as we should. We may have allowed ourselves to be too distracted or slack in our duties. If all these imperfections can cause our souls to experience failure, what happens when we commit deliberate sins? What happens when we give into our passions and commit sins against chastity? What happens when we are preoccupied with hatred which we feel towards another person for their real or imagined wrongdoings that they have done to us? All these contribute to darkening the light of faith in the soul and cause us all to experience a lack of trust in God s loving care. We need to cooperate with God’s grace. We need to be prudent and to avoid all occasions of sin which are either places or persons who may lead us into sin. We need to take counsel of our parents, our elders and confessors and follow their advice with docility. We also need to pray fervently when we are in doubt or afraid of what could happen to us.

“Truly thou are the Son of God.” Mt. 14:3

When Jesus gets into the boat, the storm stops. This is what happens in our life. When Jesus is with us all is calm, and there is no need to fear what may happen to us from life. Jesus always comes to us, but we don’t, like Elias, recognize Him at first. He comes mysteriously in a way we don’t expect. He may not come with power as in a strong wind or an earthquake. He may come gently in the good advice of a friend, a parent, a teacher, a spiritual book, or a sermon. God always uses the natural to enlighten us! Do not expect a telephone call or a vision from heaven. We should also know that God does not demand the impossible from us. He will never tempt us above our strength, and He will always be there to help us if we call upon Him, “Lord, save me.” Mt. 14.30 St. John Chrysostom tells us not to be afraid as the Lord has promised to be with us until the end of time: “Christ is with me. What shall I fear? Let the waves of the sea and the fury of the powerful come upon me. That will not weigh me down any more than a spider’s web.” (Homily before departing for the desert) If only we would call upon the Lord with confidence as St. John Marie Vianney would say: “I often think that when we come to adore the Lord we would receive everything that we ask for, if we would ask with living faith and with a pure heart.” Let us be like St. Peter and call upon the Lord with confidence and trust as Jesus will always be there to help us in all of our troubles. How blessed we are, as Pope St. John Paul II use to say, with the words of Jesus: “Be not afraid.” Jesus will always be with us to encourage us.

“Chastity and Eternal Life” by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. (continued from Sixteenth Sunday in O.T)

As we have seen, in one conference after another, the heart of Christian chastity is the practice of unselfish charity. Every sin against chastity is an indulgence in selfishness. Consequently, when we speak of the price of chastity, we are really talking about the price of selfless charity. Perceptive writers in the Christian tradition have never minimalized the power of the sex instinct in our fallen human nature. They describe the sexual act as, in a sense, the central act of the body. We might almost say it is the awakening of our corporeal nature, otherwise asleep. It represents the most vital and most intense

experience of which the human body is capable. It is the only experience in which all of our bodily powers are brought into action at the same time. Sex represents the greatest power latent in our

bodily human nature.

We do not often quote poets in our reflection on Christian chastity, but I think it is worth quoting Chaucer to illustrate the naturally uncontrollable force of the sex impulse. “Foul lust of lechery Behold the due! Not only dost thou Darken a man's mind, But bringest destruction on his body too. In their beginning all thy works are blind And in their end are grief. How many find That not the act alone, but even the will To set about it can deprave and kill!” (The Man of Law's Tale) We dare not dismiss these words of the master of English poetry as the exaggeration of rhetoric, they are the common verdict of human history. The price of eternal life is high. And the reason is because human nature is so naturally prone to lust. In order to master this tendency of our fallen humanity we must be ready to make any sacrifice which God demands of us. What makes it so difficult to preserve our chastity is that the world

in which we live no longer believes that venereal pleasure, outside of marriage, is morally wrong. In fact, it believes just the opposite. Chastity in the vocabulary of modern man is emotional stifling and

psychological repression. Yet, there is nothing which the world more needs than the witness of a chaste life inspired by a deep faith in Jesus Christ.

(to be continued next week)

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