One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

August 10, 2008

For the Nineteenth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

It was not my turn to preach in the monastery today. Here is a homily I wrote several years ago.

Matthew 14:22-33

Some time ago— also on a boat— also on a storm-tossed lake— the terrified disciples saw the Lord scold the wind and the water into silence and stillness.
That time, too, the Lord accused all of them— not only Peter— of lacking faith.
Why are you afraid,
O men of little faith?

They asked themselves:
Who is this that commands even wind and water,
and they obey him?

Today, they are again on a boat, endangered on the heaving waves once more.
Now they see him walking on the water.
He boards the boat.
The winds and the waters fall silent.
This time the disciples do not bother to ask each other who he might be.
Instead, they simply lower their eyes and heads before him in divine worship, saying,
Truly, you are the Son of God.

The prophet Elijah of old also heard and saw the cosmic might of fire, heaving earth and crushing wind fall into gentle whispering at the approach of God.
Elijah then, as the apostles later, hid his eyes from looking upon the nearness of the Divine Majesty.
Today, hearing the Word of God, you and I join the apostles and a prophet of old as they lower their eyes in the worship of God.
We see the prophet meet and worship God on a mountain.
We see the apostles worship the Son of God in a boat out on a lake.
At the opening of the Gospel today, we see Christ, like Elijah long before, alone on a mountain.
Christ, the Son of God, is alone in prayer on the mountain.
Christ, the Son of God— Christ at prayer— faces his Father in holy communion of Spirit.
Prayer is the Son of God with his Father in one Spirit.
While the galaxies, stars, planets, moons, hurricanes, oceans and the earth’s crust all move with an undefeatable might, the creator of all forever holds within himself the communion of prayer.
From all forever and into all forever, the Son of God is with his Father in one Spirit.
We now approach to worship.
We now approach to ask and pray.
Yet the heart of prayer was always alive in God before all creation.
Only of late do we join in the prayer of the Son of God.
Two thousand years ago the eternal Son of God finally came down to us as a man of flesh and blood, making present in our flesh and blood his own eternal, prayerful and spirited communion with the Father.
If even the ever-living Son of God himself takes to a mountain of solitude to approach his Father in prayer, how much more should we?
If not for God, we would not be at all.
Nothing would be.
Throughout the Gospel, Christ repeatedly goes off to be alone in prayer.
He is the eternal Son of God; and communion with his Father in one Spirit has forever been his life.
Now, since two thousand years ago, as a member of the human race, prayer is food and drink for his human soul.
Do you— do I really pray, or do I force my soul to starve and dry up?
The first sin in human history was to take false food for the soul in defiance and rejection of God.
Up until then, Adam and Eve had the privilege of communion with God who himself tended, fed and watered the Paradise of their souls.
When man and woman grabbed their first taste of faithless defiance against God, so began our whole earthshaking, boat-rocking, firestorm history of sin against our human neighbors— and against God our First Neighbor.
Each time I sin against my fellow man, it is because— and always because— I had already sinned by turning away from God.
I can sin against God simply by refusing to turn to him in worship and prayer.
Sin and the history of sin have left a deep mark of conflict and distortion on the human soul.
Because of that, when I turn to God in prayer, I will need at times to row against the wind and waves that storm inside my soul, like the apostles today in their boat.
Even Christ, true man and true God, even he prayed, allowing his own human soul to eat and drink.
Even for him, his human experience of prayer was at least once a storm of agony in a garden.
When will all the storms of history end?
Not until Christ ushers in the new earth and the new heavens.
Until then, we will at times find the wind and waves against us.
At times, like the disciples today, we will think that God is only a ghost.
We will doubt and fear.
At times we must listen to the Lord say to us what he says today in his Gospel.
Take courage,
it is I;
do not be afraid.

Perhaps we may need to step out and risk walking on water simply because the Lord has commanded us as he commanded Peter.
Again, we may fear and doubt, and then begin to sink.
We must cry out with Peter, “Lord, save me!”
At times we will deserve to hear the Lord tell us,
O you of little faith,
why did you doubt?

Sometimes— thanks be to God— we will see that God has stepped aboard our boat, taming the wind and seas.
Here in his Eucharist, the Son of God is aboard with us.
Here he prays for us to the Father.
Here in his Eucharist he gives us true food and true drink.
He grants “that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit” in him.
Let us strive to be men and women of faith, prayer and worship, doing good to our neighbors, but, above all, doing homage to God our First Neighbor, our Creator and Savior, as he eternally deserves.
May the good lives we choose to live spell out faithfully the words of worship that the apostles have spoken today.
Truly, you are the Son of God.

That God Be Glorified in All