19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2017 – Year A
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a / Psalm 85 / Rom 9:1-5 / Mt 14:22-33
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
When I looked at the readings for today, I was excited because this Old Testament reading happens to be my favorite one. There are many good stories in the Old Testament, but this is my favorite.
It will help to understand how great this reading is if you know some of the backstory. Elijah had gone up on the mountain for a reason. At that time, Israel – that is the northern half of the tribes of Israel – had turned away from God and was worshiping Baal, the god worshipped by their queen, Jezebel. Elijah challenged and bested the prophets of Baal and the people returned to worshiping God at the words of Elijah. Jezebel became angry and threatened Elijah because of this and Elijah ran away to hide from her. After 40 days and nights he ended up in this cave on the mountain. I love how the story proceeds. It shows us these tremendous events and reminds us that while many of these events come about because of God’s creation, fundamentally they are not where God is to be found. He finally shows up in the quiet whisper.
At its heart this is a story about discipleship. What exactly is discipleship? I always like to start with a clear definition. Discipleship is adhering to the doctrine of another. As Christians, we are Disciples of Jesus Christ which means we adhere to His doctrines. Probably, three of the most fundamental are 1: love one another, 2: turn the other cheek, 3: love your enemies and pray for them.
As Catholic Christians we have the teachings of the Church Fathers, the teachings of the Magisterium and the Sacraments to help us to carry out the doctrines of Jesus and be His Disciples. Additionally, to break them down and help define them better, we have Catholic social teaching. These are guidelines that we are called to follow because we believe that these teachings encapsulate God’s will for us as we carry out our calling as stewards of this world. The four main categories of Catholic social teaching are 1: The dignity of the human person, 2: The common good, 3: Solidarity and 4: Subsidiarity. All of the points of social teaching fall into one of these categories.
Being a Disciple of Christ isn’t ever easy. I have often heard folks lamenting of how things were in the past, but if we are honest with ourselves we will realize that there have always been issues and problems. Typically, they are the same problems that are manifested in different ways in different times.
Our political climate in this country at this time is indicative of the problems that have happened throughout history. As Catholics, we really don’t have a political home. I read recently a piece by Bishop Robert Barron. In summary he reminded us that our political parties in this country do not fully encapsulate our teachings as Catholics. While we are called to be Catholic Disciples, we are also called to be active in this world and above political party distinctions. I think everyone can agree that the political rhetoric in the world today is not reflective of the basic tenets of Jesus Christ – that is to love one another, turn the other cheek and love and pray for our enemies.
We are called to point out error when we see it. But too often Christians get “sucked” into the moment and it becomes difficult to distinguish them from anyone else. Too often love for one another and love for enemies falls by the wayside. That’s a problem for Christians. It’s a problem for Catholics when we don’t stand out. It’s a problem when we look like everyone else. When we get sucked into the problems and become indistinguishable from others, we can say things that have far reaching and damaging consequences. One unkind word spoken in anger can close peoples’ minds and everything said after that isn’t heard. It’s hard and we can all fall victim to this problem, but that is our vocation. We are called to live our lives as Disciples of Jesus.
The events that happened in Charlottesville illustrate this perfectly. Our Bishop came out with a statement regarding what happened there. I love what he said. The Bishop said “in the last 24 hours, hatred and violence have been on display in the city of Charlottesville. I earnestly pray for peace. I invoke the prayer of St. Francis who prayed: ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there injury, pardon…’ I pray that those men and women on both sides can talk and seek solutions to their differences respectfully. The love of Jesus Christ is the most powerful weapon against hatred. Only the light of Christ can quench the torches of hatred and violence. Let us pray for peace.” Incidentally, our Bishop is in the hospital right now and he took time to write that.
As Catholic disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to “get out of the boat”. In the midst of all the ugliness and storms that rage around us that is what we are called to do – “get out of the boat”. We can take comfort knowing that when we mess up, or we lose faith and start to sink, Jesus is there to pull us up.