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Pastor's Letter 20200809 - 09 August 2020 - Prayer in Days of Affliction

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August 9th, 2020

19th Sunday, Ordinary Time

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme: “Prayer in Days of Affliction”


…It is I, do not be afraid….”


Scripture Note

Today’s First Reading outlines a very militant, even bloodthirsty approach in Elijah’s battle against idolatry.  Undoubtedly a man of great faith, but “on the run for his life,” he takes refuge in a cave.  Beaten and broken, he simply wants to die.   But he is strengthened by God’s presence, as he is taught that God’s ways are not man’s ways.  God’s approach to us is as gentle as a breeze (1 Kings 19:9-13.)

 Then, in our Second Reading, Paul tells how he retained his faith, in spite of his sorrow and anguish, which he suffered at the hands of his tormenters, because they refused to accept Christ as the messiah (Romans 9:1-5.)

 As related in today’s Gospel, the boat in which the disciples are beaten by the winds and the waves of persecution represents the Church (Matthew 14:22-33.)  Modern theology scholars believe Jesus was not with them, physically—He was at prayer on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, becoming one with the Father. However, in their hour of need, He comes to them, and with His presence, He calms their fears and brings them peace. The incident of Peter sinking and being saved by Jesus is a reference to Peter’s failure during the Passion, and his restoration after the Resurrection.  (The writer would have known this, and almost certainly had it in mind when telling this story.) In any case, Peter represents the typical disciple—anyone caught between faith and doubt.  Jesus’ rebuke, “Man of little faith! Why did you doubt?” is directed at us, those who often courageously begin a journey toward a worthy goal only to lose heart when faced with a crisis. 

 Calm in the Storm

 If we were to take the Gospel story literally, it would have little or no relevance for us.  Seen symbolically, however, we can relate to our need for peace in times of tribulation.  Some people believe if a person has enough faith, life will be “smooth sailing” for them.  But we know that faith does not shield us from the hard knocks of life, nor death.

In the lives of early Christians, persecution was the norm.  Many must have felt abandoned by the Lord, and found their faith wanting.  Eventually, they discovered that even though the Lord was not with them, physically, He could still help them.  With their faith revived, they were able to face their trials and dangers.  We take comfort in knowing the apostles and early Christians were weak and fearful, because that means they were just like us!  In times of frustration and failure, we, too, are in need of consolation and moral support. 

 A person who has faith is a source of strength and inspiration.  However, when we cannot be adequately bolstered by our fellows, we must turn inward, and seek inspiration with the help of the Spirit within ourselves.  Our faith requires rejuvenation, from time to time, and meditative prayer can hold promise.  People who have no faith have nowhere to turn when trouble strikes.  They are utterly alone, with neither comfort nor inspiration.  It is then that people sometimes strike out at others; point fingers of blame for their failure for which they claim no responsibility; and even resort to attacking others who have found success in their efforts. 

The Gospel story shows us the power of faith.  It shows us what Jesus always does for His people, when the wind is contrary and we are in danger of being overwhelmed by the storms of life.  To those with faith, Jesus is not a “ghost” from the past, He is the Son of God, Who is present with us, and Whose grace upholds us when things are “too much” for us to bear.

 Upheld by His Power

 Consider these examples—situations in which people have felt weak and powerless—which are typical of those modern Christians might have to cope:

• John is a young person living away from home.  Sunday morning finds him in a warm bed, protected from the cold wintry weather.  He thinks, “Should I get up and go to Mass?”  He knows fully well his friends will take their “Liturgy of the Word” straight from social media, and laugh at his dilemma.  The question for John is whether he will be able to obey the gentle voice of Jesus calling him to “walk across the water” of cynicism and go to Church. 

• Mary is a young, single woman who is pregnant.  She dreads the storm of indignation surely to be in store for her from her parents, and sharp gossip from the neighbors.  Then she is offered a way out—a quiet abortion.  No one will ever know…. But then, she hears the gentle voice of Christ telling her abortion is wrong.  Will she have the courage to listen to that voice?

  Eileen is a young mother with three children.  Suddenly her husband leaves her for another woman.  Feeling hurt and betrayed, she is lonely and angry.  Then she hears Jesus’ voice inviting her to trust.  Will she have the courage to walk on those “troubled waters,” relying only on His word?

  Gary is a policeman.  A drug dealer offers him a large amount of money if he would turn a blind eye to his activities.  It’s very tempting. But then he hears Christ’s voice saying: “Do not participate in corruption.”  Will he be able to walk across those foul and ugly “waters?”

  Paul is a commercial traveler, away from home.  One night he meets a very attractive woman in a bar.  He hasn’t been getting along very well lately, with his wife.  No one will ever know if he is unfaithful.  Will he have the strength to walk across the waters of fidelity at the call of Christ, Who tells him adultery is wrong?

Certainly we could continue with many more examples, but the point has been made.  At times, we will hear the Lord telling us: “Get up, and walk to me on the water.”  At the same time, He stretches out his hand to us offering assistance. 

In those times, we must draw courage from the example of Peter, who represents the typical disciple, caught between faith and doubt.  He also set out to obey Jesus, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind (that is, persecution,) his faith failed him.  Jesus rebuke, “Man of little faith! Why did you doubt?” is directed toward us, as well.  Like Peter, our paths begin confidently, but we succumb to our doubts.  Not only do we have to contend with “outer struggles,” (against critics and the elements,) but also with the “inner struggles,” (against ourselves.)  To some extent, this means we must walk in faith, relying only on the promises made by Jesus, to always be with us.  We might be tempted, on occasion, to “step out” on His word.  But Christ is not a “ghostlike” figure from the past.  He is the Son of God, Who lives among us, today.  (This is yet another reason for receiving frequent Holy Communion—to help keep us on the “straight and narrow.”) 

One day, when we have to leave the earthly “boat,” that has carried us through the stormy waters of our mortal existence, we will set out across the dark waters of death.  If we have opted for Christ during our lives, then we will naturally reach out and take His hand, so that He will haul us onto the shores of everlasting life. 

 Whisper in the Storm

 One might say there are two basic forms of verbal communication—all other forms being modifications of these two.  The first is loud and harsh—consisting mainly of the shout.  Many put their faith in this method, and it often used for giving commands.  We often hear it on parade grounds, and on the sidelines of sporting events.  (It is also heard a lot in radio and television commercials….) 

While the shout has its uses, it is often counter-productive.  Loud sounds can deafen—forcing us to close our ears; or, we might “switch off” altogether.  Besides, we don’t like it when people shout at us.  It usually means we have no choice in the matter.   Many times in our lives we have heard, “Come here!”  “Stand up straight!”  “Get out!”  When people shout at us, we often feel under threat, and our spontaneous reaction is to defend ourselves.

The second method is soft and gentle, and consists of the whisper.  Many times, a whisper is more effective than a shout.  It is very personal; very individual.  When someone wants to get the attention of a listener, or a group of listeners, say, in a classroom, they whisper.  Then people must strain their ears to hear.  They ask others “What did he/she say?”  A whisper disarms us because we don’t feel under threat; it doesn’t break down the door and force itself upon us; it respects our freedom.  By adopting such a gentle approach, we know the person wishes us well.  Thus, we are more open to what they have to say.  In certain cases, a whisper is the only approach—consider the way people convey messages of love and peace. 

But a whisper is a very fragile thing.  Because concentration is necessary to hear, it can easily be ignored.  It doesn’t take much to “drown it out.” 

That Spiritual voice we sometimes hear when we are in prayerful mediation is more like a whisper than a shout.  It is usually the quietest and gentlest sound of all—if it really is a sound, in fact.  It may come to us simply as an idea or an impression, when we least expect it.  We may receive valuable guidance from such a “voice,” and in that case, we know it springs from a place of love.  (Our First Reading today exemplifies the power of the whisper in the case of Elijah in the cave.) 

Since we live in a very noisy world, we need to create stillness and quietness to hear such messages.  Many strident and seductive voices clamor for our attention—like temptations.  But it is the voice that comes from within us that presents the greatest threat to that gentle voice. (It’s the one that reinforces our own self-esteem.)

Yet for those who know how to listen, that quiet voice can be heard even in the midst of the daily cacophony of life, or the storms of discord. 

To live by faith means to have trust in the teachings of Jesus Christ, which reinforce the power of the Creator.  When some situations arise in which we have to take a risk, and we are not confident of the outcome, we must rely on God’s help (along with faith in our God-given talents and our past experience.)  Modern life, with its emphasis on security and its distrust of the unknown, doesn’t make faith easy.  In fact, it may make it seem downright foolish! 

We must remember that we are God’s children.  There is an unbreakable bond between us and our Creator.  This conviction, along with our prayerful meditation, should produce a kind of “lightness” in us, that makes it possible for us to walk over the “waves of danger” we must face.  

May God Richly Bless You!


“When I come to the end of all the light that I have, and take a step into the darkness beyond—

I must believe one of two things: There will be some solid there, for me to stand upon,

Or, God will teach me to fly.”  ~~Alpha Legg

You Do Not Walk Alone.docx

You Do Not Walk Alone.docx

To listen to a recording of today's Liturgy of the Word, click here: https://youtu.be/vfraULkTyqk






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