Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2020
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 18 segundos
He Made the Disciples Get into the Boat
A Polish-born American Rabbi Prof Abraham Joshua Heschel said, ‘The Bible is not Israel’s theology; it is God’s anthropology.’ Harold S. Kushner understands this to mean ‘the Bible comes not to teach us who God is but to teach us who God wants us to be.’ Central to Scripture and Tradition is that sense of mission, a summons by God; a sending forth. In Matthew 14: 22-33 Jesus gave prominence to the theme of mission when He sent the disciples ahead of Him.
Biblically, mission is about what God wants, what He asks of us at any given time, situation, and experience. Mission, and indeed vocation is about God. It begins from God and ends in Him. But there is a human dimension, a responsewhich in the words of the prophet Jeremiah is initiated by God. Perhaps Matthew was alluding to the fact that God respects our freedom to respond to His mission when he said, ‘Jesus made the disciples get into the boat’.
Notice the detail, ‘Jesus made the disciples.’ He did not coerce them. He made them. That is, He was in dialogue with them. There was a relationship. A person to person encounter. The Son was in conversation with His brothers and sisters, trusting them and sending them ahead of Him. Here, the ‘I’ of the individual gave way to the ‘us’ of faith. The fledgling Church was sent forth and exposed to a whole new reality of being in the world, battling with the winds.
What are these winds? They are the signs of the time. The philosophies, the languages, cultures, experiences, the manifestation of God’s Kingdom, His Spirit, the happenings of life etc. Most times, these winds break into our boat, the Church where God has made us to enter; strong winds causing scandal that discourages and make us lose faith. Other times, the winds hit us. They lash our boat, causing us to bleed and to reek. Amid all this, we panic, we ask, where is God.
He is right there in the mission, in the words, “I am sending you ahead of Me.’ These words not only describe what God wants of us, but they also effect God’s presence and His power. However, in trying moments, the temptation is to focus too much on the signs of the times to the point that we forget the God of the mission. We forget that the mission is not about us, but God. It is in times like this that we mistake Jesus for a ghost. We cannot recognise Him because we have turned our backs on Him. The ‘us’ of faith has disintegrated into the ‘I’ of individual.
At this point, our vocation becomes mere ambition. It becomes our thing. We throw God out of the picture. We turn inwards. We become a self-serving Church that is insecure, rigid, and defensive. Somehow, this paints a picture of the Church today. The in-fighting among the right-wing ideologues and their left-wing counterparts are nothing but the aftermath of our obsession with the signs of the times. Like Peter, we are sinking, and the empty pews are telling our story.
What shall we do now? We are to cry out to the Lord as Peter did, ‘Lord, save me.’ Lord save ‘the me’ of the self-seeking ambition and convert that me to ‘the us of faith’. Bring me back into the boat, the Church, the mission where you are present and are at work. It is this disposition that gives rise to true religion. One that reorders our values and turns us toward God. A religion in which we bow before the Lord and acknowledge Him as the Son of God.
This disposition is a virtue. It is a virtue that Pope Francis has preached and lived. At different times when the head winds have buffeted us badly, all we hear from him is Lord, save me. And he cries out to us, begging us to pray with him, Lord, save me. For unless ‘the me’ is saved and redeemed from ‘the I’, the winds will not drop. We will continue to be swayed by the winds on the sea and some of us may sink like Peter and even drown. So let us cry out with Peter, Pope Francis as we pray, Lord, save me.
Fr Francis Afu