Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.
Imagine being in the boat with the disciples. It’s late at night. It’s dark and overcast. Occasionally the clouds break and the pale light of the moon shines through. A few lights twinkle off in the distance along the shore. But otherwise it is dark. The rest of the world is asleep. As the night goes on, the wind begins to pick up. The waves begin to rise. The boat begins to rock. The wind is against it. As you feel yourself tossed about, as you taste the salty spray on your lips, you think of all the things in your life that are against you: the pressures of work, the anxieties of family life, the uncertainties of the world. Like a strong, driving wind, they blow against you and toss you about. But the boat keeps you safe. And you cling to it for dear life.
Suddenly, Jesus comes walking toward you on the water. He’s unperturbed by the wind and the waves. He looks like a ghost and you’re frightened. You cry out in fear. Jesus says to you, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” A warmth fills your heart as the pressures, anxieties, and uncertainties fade away for a moment. Then a cold dread steals over you. Jesus is gesturing to you—to you. He’s inviting you personally. He wants you to step out of the boat and come toward Him on the water. “Leave the boat, Jesus? Leave this place of comfort and safety? No way, this is the only thing keeping me from drowning. It’s the only thing keeping me afloat. And you want me to leave it? Why would you ask that of me? And why now? Why now, when everything is against me, when everything is falling apart, when chaos surrounds me on every side?”
Eventually you relent and slowly, cautiously, you take a step out of the boat. And incredibly, miraculously, you begin to walk toward Jesus. The water is cold but strangely firm against your bare feet. You look at Jesus and He beckons you, “Come.” His eyes are fixed on you. He stares into the depts of your soul, laying bear all your worries, fears, and anxieties. He knows everything that’s against you, but still He beckons you, inviting you to take a risk—to just this once leave your comfort and security behind and come to Him. “Come.” His invitation echoes in your heart.
You take a step and then another step. As you get further away from the boat, you begin to notice how strong the wind is and how tall the waves are. You take your eyes off Jesus and you begin to sink. The water is no longer firm beneath your feet. A wave crashes over your head and you begin to go under. You flail your arms in panic, but they do nothing. You seem to have forgotten how to swim. Saltwater begins to fill your mouth and lungs. Coughing and choking, you cry out with your last breath, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, a strong arm grasps your own and pulls you up out of the water. Jesus seemed far away to you, and yet He was so close. When you called out, He didn’t hesitate. You had only to ask, and immediately He was there to catch you and save you.
Jesus gently rebukes you, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And you wonder to which doubt He’s referring. Because you were filled with so many doubts. You doubted whether you should leave the comfort and safety of the boat. You doubted whether He could protect you against the wind and the waves. You doubted whether He could make you walk on the water. You doubted whether He would save you when you began to drown. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And you say to Him in reply:
“Jesus, I doubted so much, but most of all I doubted that you would save me. I thought that you would let me drown.”
There is much that is against us these days. Pressures, anxieties, and uncertainties rock the boats of our lives. They toss us about. And we cling to our comfort and security. But Jesus invites us to come to Him. Because, at the end of the day, there’s no place more comforting or secure than His arms. And He will take us into His arms whether we walk or fall, whether we swim or sink. He will not let us drown.
And to remind us of that He has given us His Mother. We began Mass this morning with the procession of the silver rose, a token of our gratitude to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas. We turn to our Lady especially in this time that she might guard and protect all life. Jesus has given us Our Lady as an anchor in the storm, a harbor in the tempest. Her words to St. Juan Diego five-hundred years ago are also her words to us today: “Listen, and let it penetrate your heart, my dear little [ones]; do not be troubled or weighted down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?” Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the Americas, pray for us.