Sunday, August 7, 2011

You Bet!

19 Sunday A #115

1 Kgs 19, 9a. 11-13a
Ps 85
Rom 9, 1-5
Mt 14, 22-33

August 7, 2011

Deacon Tom Cornell

Every one of us, every baptized Christian is under the Great Commission to proclaim the Good News and to build the Kingdom. The Good News isn’t just about heaven and the world to come. It’s about the world as it is here and now: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Bishops and priests and deacons proclaim the principles of Gospel justice and peace. But it is up to you, the people, the lay faithful, to apply them, so that, little by little, we advance toward the Kingdom of God and its perfect justice and peace. To do that we must know not only the principles, but the facts, the realities of our day. The Church strenuously defends the right to private property. At the same time the Church teaches that all the world’s goods were created for everybody’s benefit. Those who have must take into account the needs of those who have not and the common good of all. You won’t know the facts from a steady diet of Fox News. And you surely won’t get the principles! “It’s my money, I made it by hard and honest work and I can do with it what I want” is not a Catholic attitude unless what you want to do with it is what God wants you to do with it. Read our own Catholic New York and reliable journals of opinion from right to left and make up your own minds, remembering our Church’s often repeated preferential option for the poor, the young, the vulnerable, the unborn, the elderly, the sick and disabled, the unemployed and the unemployable, immigrants. It is undeniable that there has been a hardening, a coarsening of attitudes toward these “least of the brethren” in the past few years in our country. Make up your own mind in prayer, listening to that small, still voice that comes not in earthquake or whirlwind or thunder and fire but in a whisper, a still whisper, the voice of conscience.

Today’s Gospel reading follows last Sunday’s. Remember Jesus was shaken by the news that King Herod has executed John the Baptist. He is looking for a quiet place to rest and to pray, but he is pressed upon by a large crowd and feeds them all with five loaves and two fishes. That feeding of the five thousand ought to be enough to convince us of his truth, whether it was a physical miracle or a moral one, whether he literally made many loaves out of a few or whether, even more miraculous, he opened people’s hearts so that they opened their hidden bags of food to share. Jesus is still shaken and tired today. Again he’s trying to get away to rest and to pray. Today he walks upon water to calm the storm and rescue his disciples. At first, they think they may be seeing things, maybe a ghost. “Be not afraid,” he assures them. Then Peter calls to Jesus, “If it’s really you, command me to come to you over the water.” Jesus calls to Peter, “Come!” At first Peter sets out upon the waves with confidence. Then his faith falters and he begins to sink. Jesus extends his hand, grasps Peter’s and all is well, he is saved. Then Jesus has a word with Peter: “Oh you of little faith, why do you doubt?” Why do we doubt?

Doubt is natural, normal. If we didn’t have doubt we could not have faith either. Why is anything? Are we alone in a meaningless universe, lost in the stars? Is the universe, is God friendly, hostile or indifferent? Is a Galilean Jew two thousand years dead the revelation of God, risen from the dead, the answer to our questions, the way, the truth and the life, as he claimed? Look at the way history has unfolded. There is proof enough. Not mathematical proof, not the kind of proof that demands assent from any and all honest minds. God does not force anybody to believe. But proof enough for me, that only light can dispel darkness, only good conquer evil, only love overcome hate. Only forgiveness can cancel wrongs. It’s the Sermon on the Mount. It’s the Cross. I know. I have seen it happen, the lame walk, the blind regain their sight and see.

This is the most important hour of the week, when we hear the Word of God and are strengthened in faith by sharing his Body and Blood to go out and do his will. Those who are not here today – do they know what they are missing? Tell them! Billions of people for almost two thousand years have lived their lives for this faith and literally millions have gone to their deaths for this faith, in our own day 37 priests murdered in 2009, about the same last year and a bishop or two, and so many lay people that figures are unreliable! Is it a faith worth dying for? You bet it is! There is nothing to fear. All is well, all will be well. Christ had died. Christ is risen! Christ will come again. You can bet your life on it!

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