19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A ON AUGUST 9TH, 2020 (R. 1: 1 Kings 19: 9a, 11- 13a; Psalm 85: 9- 14; R. 2: Romans 9: 1- 5; Gospel: Matthew 14: 22- 33)

          REVD FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

HE IS EMMANUEL!

Do you remember the story of the five-year-old boy and his dad? Little Jack got up at midnight and woke his dad up to follow him to the bathroom (an outdoor bathroom) because it was dark outside, and he was scared. His dad encouraged him to go alone that nothing would harm him, but Jack would not take that. When the pressure from Jack became unbearable, his dad told him, “Jack, go and leave the door open, I will be watching you from here, and nothing will happen to you.” Jack got up from the bed and asked, “Dad, are you watching?” “Yes, Jack,” replied his dad. Before opening the door, Jack quizzed his dad again, “Dad, are you watching?” “Yes, Jack,” replied his dad. Finally, when he got into the bathroom, before carrying out the business that took him there, he asked his dad for the third time, “Dad, are you still watching?” “Yes, yes, ye..,” replied his dad, who fell asleep before he finished saying the last “yes.” But Jack confidently made use of the bathroom, believing that his dad was watching over him.

My dearly beloved in Christ, I have good news for you: unlike Jack, we have a dad who neither sleeps nor slumbers, a dad who watches over us all the time (cf. Psalm 121: 4), He is “Our Father, who art in heaven.” In many places in the Old Testament, our Father in heaven reminds us not to fear. He also tells us why we should not be afraid. For example, in Isaiah 41:10, He says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will give you strength, I will bring you help, I will uphold you with the right hand of my justice.” So, the main reason why we should not fear is that God is not just watching over us from a distance like Jack’s dad; He is with us where we are.

After sending many of His prophets to remind us of his presence with us, God finally sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be with us in human flesh. He also gave him the name Emmanuel, which means, “God with us,” as a constant reminder that we are not alone in any situation we find ourselves.

Today is our second Sunday in a row of reflecting on the miracles of Jesus. In today’s Gospel passage, the disciples of Jesus were in the boat that was being tossed about by the waves as the wind was against it. Then Jesus, who was earlier on praying on the mountain, began to walk on the sea. They thought he was a Ghost, so they were terrified. Jesus said to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” When Jesus told them, “It is I,” he was appealing to his track record; he was appealing to his credentials. When he said, “It is I,” he meant, “Have you forgotten the one you are dealing with?” He meant, “Look at my track record, look at my credentials: Did I not just feed the crowds with only five loaves and two fish? Did I not heal the sick? Were you not there when I changed water to wine? Why can’t you trust me for this one?” “It is I” was a way of saying that the same “I” who did it before is still present and will do more.

Whenever God tells us, “Do not be afraid,” He is not inviting us to deny the source of our fears; instead, He is asking us to acknowledge the presence of the Power that is higher than the cause of our fears. When Jesus said to them, “It is I,” he was inviting his disciples to focus on him, the Strength that is higher than the source of their fear. Peter took advantage of that and challenged Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water,” and Jesus commanded him to come. As long as Peter was focusing on Jesus, as long as he kept consulting his faith and not his fears, he kept walking on water.

There is a power that comes from the object of our focus. Do you remember when the Israelites complained in the Book of Numbers 21? For their punishment, they were bitten by poisonous serpents. Moses pleaded on their behalf, and God told him to mold a serpent and put it on a pole so that anyone who looked at the snake would live. The snake Moses put on the pole was a prefiguration, a foreshadowing of Jesus on the Cross. In Catholic spirituality, we have the silent adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, where we silently look at Jesus.  We believe that when we look long enough at Jesus, we begin to look like Jesus. Peter kept walking on the sea like Jesus as long as he was focusing on Jesus, the source of his strength. But as soon as he took his attention from Jesus and started consulting his fear, focusing on the wind and the sea, he began to sink. But to his credit, he remembered Jesus his Strength, and he called out, “Save me, Lord!” and Jesus rescued him.

My dear friends, how is your boat behaving on the sea at this moment? What kind of wind is challenging your life at this moment? What is keeping you awake at night? Is it the wind of emotional imbalance? Financial challenges? Unfavorable report from your doctor? Academic problems? Marital struggles? Troublesome children? False allegation? No matter what the wind is, Jesus is saying to you, “It is I.” Jesus invites you to remember how he saved you in the past from troubles you never thought you would ever overcome. He is not a project-abandoning God; whatever he begins, he perfects. He is Emmanuel. He is with us.

At every Mass, the priest reminds us not less than five times that the Lord is with us. As you go to face the world at the end of this Mass, bear in mind that you are not alone. God is with you; sometimes, He calms the storm, other times, he leaves the storm and calms His child, and so He says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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