Homily given by Fr Adrian Sharp at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

Sunday 7 August 2011, 7.30pm

Readings: 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13;  Romans 9:1-5;  Matthew 14:22-33


The word of God today provides us with plenty of stuff that we can relate to as we struggle on through the challenges of life.

In the first reading we have the story of Elijah.  A bit of context to the story: Elijah the prophet had been working hard defending the true faith against the pagan prophets.  He’d actually been quite successful.  This success, though, infuriated Queen Jezebel – and she threatens to kill him.  He flees and that’s why he ends up on Horeb, the mountain of God.  He’s there in fear for his life;  but he’s also exhausted, and confused about what he’s meant to do next.  Upon reaching the cave, God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  And Elijah pours out his soul … he has come to the end of his tether – he’s the only one left [doing God’s will], and now they want to kill him.

And then the encounter happens that we heard in our first reading: the wind, the earthquake, the fire – but then the voice of the Lord in “the sound of sheer silence.”  God then again asks Elijah why he’s there, and Elijah explains again.  But then the Lord gives directions to Elijah and what he’s to do.

The story is a beautiful description of how God comes to meet us, particularly in our darkness and confusion.  Humanly speaking we’d say that Elijah was “running away” from his problems – but in this instance, God helps him to run away by providing food so that he’ll be able to make the long journey.  And when Elijah gets far away, in the solitude of the mountain, God comes to speak to him.

The story reminds us that we need to “get away” – we need times of silence and solitude so that God can minister to us.  It’s why its such a good practice to make a spiritual retreat, where we physically go away from our normal activities.  But it doesn’t have to just be a physical removing of ourselves.  Right where we are, we can “enter that private room” of our hearts and be with the Lord.  Something that was said of Blessed John Paul II was that in the midst of his busy activity, his pastoral visits here and there, he could be right in the midst of all sorts of activity and be able to – then and there – enter into deep prayer and contemplation – he was able to “go to that place” where he could speak with God, and God could speak with him.

This theme is reinforced in today’s Gospel.  We note that the beginning of today’s section indicates that Jesus himself had sent the disciples away in the boat while he went up the mountain by himself to pray [even our Lord retreated].  Later, when the boat is struggling because of the waves and the wind, Jesus walks on the water towards his friends.  Peter, inspired by the sight asks Jesus to allow him also to walk on the water.  But we see that the moment Peter takes his attention off Jesus, and starts thinking more about the strong wind, he begins sinking.

It’s so easy for us to become obsessed by the things around us.  We can become totally focused on the problems we face, and on how we’re going to solve them.  We soon realize how powerless we are, and so we become afraid.  All the while, though, we’ve taken our eyes off God – we’ve forgotten that God alone can save.

This again reminds us that we have to keep our eyes focused on Christ.  Our world holds up as a value “self-sufficiency”, but if we take that too far, we end up like Elijah and Peter … we end up afraid and in the dark when our own insuffiency becomes apparent.  We start sinking beneath the waves.

It’s so important that we come to Jesus every day.  Physically, we can come to him in the Church where we find his sacramental presence.  Every day we can worship him in the sacrifice of the Mass and receive him in holy communion.  And if we can’t physically come to him, we can still go to him spiritually, wherever we are.

Friends, let’s savour this hour that we have now with the Lord as we offer Mass.  In this time of quiet and reflection, away from our daily toil, let’s ask the Lord to give us a heart that is capable of really trusting Him, able to recognize Him and follow Him.  May we have a heart like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a heart that never remains absorbed in its own sadness, but rather a heart that turns to the Lord with a trust.