Homily for 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A

Jesus Our Lord And Saviour Is Our Peace!
Readings: 1st: I Kg 19, 9. 11-13; Ps 84, 9-14; 2nd: Rom 9, 1-5; Gos: Mtt 14, 22-33

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Sancto, in Dorado, San Juan Puerto Rico, of the Spiritan International Group of the Republica Dominicana-Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

“Storms” are part and parcel of our human existence. They are inevitable in this world, just as the waves are inevitable in the oceans and death is inevitable to humankind. Sometimes, they hit us so hard that we are crushed, devastated, and almost annihilated. Yet, in spite of this, we still see ourselves going on. Who is responsible for this “going on”? The Church on this 18th Sunday of ordinary time joyfully reminds us that even though storms are inevitable and bring us anguish, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is always close to us calming the storms of our life and restoring our peace.
The Readings of this Sunday have a lot to teach us and they offer me personally a golden opportunity to share this great testimony with you. Just a couple of days after my arrival in the “Isla del enchante” (Island of enchantment) – Puerto Rico (The Rich Port), the news and warning was all over the air that the storm was imminent. This news so terrified people that a day before the storm was to hit the island, many families went shopping. On the D-day almost all the streets were deserted for fear of being hit by the storm. Every one took precaution because, “to-before-warned is to- before-armed.” However, the good news is, thank God, the storm never came in spite of the fears and worries that enshroud the island. Jesus heard our prayers and took the storm away without us knowing it. He proved to be stronger than the storm that terrified us, Alleluia! The imminence, sight, and presence of the storm and all that it represents definitely bring us confusion and deprive us of peace. It leaves us confused in life. Often times it’s so devastating that one may not be able to sail through it except by the grace of God.
In the first reading, the scared and embattled prophet Elijah found God, who quelled the storm of his life and restored his peace. Elijah taught he was all alone in his storm of life, but God said to him: “My dear you are not and will never walk alone because I am here to restore your peace!” When we are calm internally, and when we move our hearts away from the internal storms and noise, especially the “noise of biology and chemistry,” that rage within us then, we will hear God speak to us about things we know nothing about, things that will restore our peace and tranquility of mind. In saying that God eventually spoke to Elijah after the gentle breeze is simply to say that, it was at the point in time when Elijah had fully recollected himself, calmed down, and retracted from the internal fear and storm that enveloped him. Often times, we seek God with a chaotic mind, and in an environment so full of distraction. In these, we definitely cannot hear the voice of God. But, when we are fully recollected, we hear him speak to us.
In the second reading, Paul expresses the grief or storm that he bears in his heart for his people. He had his people so much on his mind because they have rejected the very Christ who offered them the salvation and peace that is so wonderful. Through this reading, Paul reveals to us one of the greatest secret through which we can attain inner peace. What is it? It is our readiness and the altruistic way of life which enables one to empty oneself wholly for others. This fills one with peace! Paul says of himself today: “I will willingly be condemned if it could help my brothers.” In order words, he feels greatly the need for his brethren to be saved just as he himself has been saved. His peace is therefore not complete safe he has helped in achieving that of his brethren. Paul teaches us therefore, that we must not only think about ourselves, but also, about the good and well being of others. It is through it that we derive our own inner peace and experience the complete divine presence and dialogue with God. When others are not safe, and saved there is chaos around us, and we are not safe too because our peace is disturbed. Therefore, just as persecution helped Elijah find the God of peace, we must help our brethrens find lasting peace in Jesus Christ the prince of peace.
In today’s gospel the earlier disciples of Jesus experienced the storm of their life and Jesus was readily at hand to calm their storm. Like these earlier disciples of Jesus, each one of us has experienced the storm in diverse ways in our life. Some are facing it right now even as I am penning down this homily. The storm represents our sicknesses, family problems, shaky marriages, stubborn children, many struggle of life, lack of inner peace, barrenness of all sorts, joblessness, dwindling finance, poverty, dejection, lack of love, castigations, abuse, discriminations against us, bad habits, struggle with sin, lack of moral, spiritual and psychological courage, and on and on the list continues unending. The sea is our world. Whenever these and lots more are in, or surround us, the boats of our lives begin to experience turbulence, and consequently stagger. If we do not have any one or better still, if we are “ignorant like Elijah”, that there is a friend like Jesus who can help us out, we might crash out. God forbid, because Jesus our peace is always there for us! What storm are you contending with? Has it taken your peace away, and left you desolate? My dear, there is hope because Jesus our peace is very close to you right now calming that storm! Today, these burdens will encounter Christ because he has stepped into the sea and situation of your life in order to restore your shattered peace. As to his earlier disciples, he says to us today: “Courage! Do not be afraid, it is I”, the Lord, and the Prince of Peace who is stepping into the sea of your life! Once again as ever before, he says: “Caste all your burden on me because I care…” (1 Pt 5, 7)! What else do we need brethren?
In conclusion, like Elijah we must make ourselves available, be where God wants us to be for the divine dialogue, encounter and manifestation of his power and peace. Again, it is necessary that we must always have a meeting point with God, and also know what moments and place he waits for us. Because he never comes late or misses appointments, he will always wait for us there. Do you have a meeting place with God and Jesus? Where is it? That place should be your heart and your conscience – your innermost sanctuary, where God is supposed to dwell. It has to be prepared and kept ready at all times for the divine presence. We must rid this divine meeting place of noise, worries, anger, revenge, lies, cheating, backbiting, greed, chaos, fear, and in fact all that Jesus tells us defile a man (Mk 7, 15-16). Also, we must be patient by not looking for, or expecting to find God (in the mighty winds, earthquakes, or fire) where he is not to be found, but in the solitude of our heart and quiet time of our life. Second, like the disciples, we must learn to trust Jesus when he says to us: “COURAGE, DO NOT BE AFRAID, IT IS I”, because, he is willing and able to sustain us and quieten the storm of our life. We must like Peter, who walked on the sea with Christ step out with boldness against the storms of our life. But unlike “the sinking Peter”, we must not allow our faith in Jesus Christ to drop even by an inch. Instead, we must hold on firmly to Jesus who is ready to lead us kindly and gently amidst the raging storm of our life. Jesus is our peace. In him we must live, move and have our being (Acts 17, 28). He is the voice that speaks for and of peace. Let us humbly say with the Psalmist today: “O Lord, let us see your mercy and give us your saving help!”
Peace be with you all!!

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