19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 10, 2014 – Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
A few years ago, the comedian Jerry Seinfeld said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Now this means, to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you are better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” Apparently this isn’t just one survey. If you Google the number one fear, most studies show public speaking is number one, and death is number 2, 5 or 7.
When I was in college, I was guilty of this myself. I couldn’t speak in public. But just a few weeks in the seminary enlightened me that I was just focusing on the wrong thing – what others might think – rather than on the message I had to give because I care for other people.
In today’s gospel, St. Peter had the wonderful experience to do the impossible. He focused on our Lord, and he believed in his word when he said, “Come.” But then, his focus changed. When he changed from looking at our Lord, who was giving him strength and power, to looking at the waves and the sea and the wind, he started to sink.
Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, once told the Israelites, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life then, that you and your descendants may live.”
Jesus is not only the way, he is not only the truth – he is the life. If we choose him, everything in our life will fall into its proper place and we will live life in all its fullness. But if we look at all the troubles around us – our problems, our miseries, our difficulties – well, welcome to humanity. This is life here on earth. We are not in heaven yet. There are problems and challenges around the world. We can hear all about them on the news – 24 hours a day – if we want to feel miserable.
But we have a God who is in charge. When we look at our Lord, we will always have hope for the future that everything is going to be fine. It has been said that those who do not have hope for the future will not have energy for the present. It will siphon our energy. Jesus is life. If we choose life, if we choose him, we are always in the right company.
During the offertory, we will sing, “Be Not Afraid,” which is taken from Isaiah, Luke 6 and the end of the gospel of St. Matthew. Jesus promises us, “Be not afraid. I will be with you always.” These words have appeared quite a number of times in the sacred scriptures. That is how important it is.
Going back to St. Peter – he was not afraid of water, or sinking or the waves. He was a master fisherman. He grew up on the Sea of Galilee. He knew how to swim; he was probably the best swimmer in the group. Sinking, for him, was not a problem. I can identify with him, growing up a few steps away from the Pacific Ocean. Although our parents would not allow us to go to the sea during a storm, we went anyway, because it was fun. When you grow up around the water, nobody dies in a storm. Peter knew this. He wasn’t afraid of sinking or the waves. So what was the problem?
He was afraid – not of his failure, but of success. When he was walking on the water after a few steps, he might have been thinking, “Who am I to do this? Why am I doing the impossible? I am not supposed to walk on water. I am supposed to sink.” So he started sinking.
Peter’s was afraid of doing the impossible. He was afraid of using his strength, and he lost his focus. Nelson Mandela once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are powerful beyond all measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. And we ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around us. It is not just in some of us, it is in every one. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. And as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
My dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit, who dwells in each and every one of us, continue to empower us. And may our Lord Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity, which we will receive in Holy Communion a few minutes from now, give us grace, enlightenment and strength, that we may always have in mind that we are not ordinary mortals. We are sons and daughters of God, temples of the Holy Spirit. We have no reason to be afraid… and yes, we are powerful beyond all measure.