August 8, 2020 // The Sunday Gospel
God’s ways are not our ways
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The First Book of Kings is the source of this weekend’s first reading. The two Books of Kings highlight the kings of the united kingdom of Israel: Saul, David and Solomon. But neither book, ultimately, is a political history. Both books are religious works, written to call the people to be loyal to God.
Thus, along with the kings, and often more emphatically and extensively than the kings, these books mention prophets, who spoke for God.
For example, this weekend’s reading centers on Elijah. The prophet Elijah tries to hear God, believing that God will speak to him but looking for God in all the wrong places, Elijah expects to hear the Almighty in raging storms and in violent natural upheavals.
Such are not the media through which God communicates, as Elijah discovers. He a tiny whispering sound. It is the voice of God.
Several lessons are in this reading. First, God communicates with humanity in ways that they can perceive. Second, in communicating with humans, God does not always meet their expectations. Often, it is the other way.
Elijah looked for God in great outbursts of nature, in a storm or in an earthquake, believing that God is supreme over nature and speaks through nature’s power. But as the New Testament eventually would specifically teach, God’s ways are not human ways. Not acting in human ways, God appears in places and events and forms least expected, such as in tiny whispering sounds in the middle of storms and earth tremors.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans again this weekend furnishes the second reading.
In this reading Paul verifies his own status as an Apostle, and his own truthfulness. He identifies himself, presenting his credentials, so to speak. He confronts imposters. These writings make clear the fact that some disputed Paul, questioning his claim to be as an Apostle.
He also mourns that many of his kin do not accept God or him. Despite the fact that some walked away from the Gospel, however, Paul insists that he will remain true to his calling as a Christian and as an Apostle. He urged the Romans also to be faithful.
For its last reading, the Church turns to St. Matthew’s Gospel.
In this story, the Lord literally walks across water to reach the boat from which the Apostles were fishing. Peter, impulsive as was his personality, leaps from the boat, attempting to meet Jesus. Indeed, Jesus had invited Peter to come forward.
As often happened, Peter’s initial exuberance gives way to uncertainty. When these feelings take hold, Peter loses his ability to walk on the water. He begins to sink.
Jesus, not at all outdone by Peter’s lack of faith, pulls him from the water, rescuing Peter from death.
It is a truism to say that God’s ways are not our ways. Of course they are not. We are limited. Our perceptions are blurred. Selfishness and fear lead us astray.
Life cannot be measured just by earthly standards. It must be measured by its totality: in other words, with attention given the fact of eternity.
Jesus is the Son of God. He walked on water. He saved Peter from drowning. He is the source of life. He is the only security. He alone gives eternal life.
The greatest practical lesson to learn from these readings is that in fact we are only human. Our outlook is not necessarily precise. Our wishes are not always pure. We may love the Lord, and we may attempt to follow the Lord, but at times we try to find happiness by relying upon ourselves. When we try to walk on water, without Jesus, we fall into the water.
First of all, we must humbly realize who and what we are.
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