A Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday, August 13, 2023
Holy Ghost Church – 5:00 Mass
1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33
Today’s Gospel reading takes place immediately following what we refer to as the Feeding of the Five Thousand, that incredible miracle where Jesus multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 men plus the women and children present, not to mention twelve wicker baskets full of leftovers. Keep in mind that the disciples had just witnessed this incredible miracle as you reflect on today’s Gospel story.
After a long day of teaching and performing this miraculous feeding, Jesus needed to recharge. How did he do this? He went by himself up on a mountain to pray. He entered into prayerful silence to be with his Father and give thanks for all the Father had worked through him that day.
Jesus is showing us that we must each set aside time for prayer every day, no matter how busy we are. We must not let anything prevent us from praying every day. Even Jesus, the Son of God, made time for daily prayer!
The primary lesson Jesus taught on this occasion was that prayer is the preparation we need to overcome obstacles in life and to confront fear with perfect faith. The Gospel today gives us two examples of obstacles that can be overcome by prayer.
By walking on the stormy sea Jesus shows us that when we make our personal prayer life a priority, God will lead us to accomplish that which appears to be impossible, trusting him completely as we experience the storms that come our way. It most likely won’t be literally walking on water, but Jesus’ walking on water after spending the night in prayer is symbolic of how we must each prepare to overcome the “impossibilities” we face in life.
The second example of prayer we see in today’s Gospel is Peter’s example. While scripture doesn’t tell us whether or not Peter had been praying prior to seeing Jesus walk on the stormy sea, we can imagine that he was quite likely too busy managing the boat in the storm to be practicing mental prayer and reflecting deeply on the miracle that had just occurred. He was busy and probably worn out from a long day. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? How many of us think we’re just too busy to spend time in prayer every day?
To his credit, Peter did step out of the boat in faith when Jesus called him, but his faith didn’t last long when he realized what he had done and it doesn’t seem as though he prayed until he started to sink. Then he prayed, “Lord, save me!” This was the prayer of one who prays out of a present need rather than out of pure love of God. It is the prayer of so many of us.
Too often, Peter’s prayer – Lord, save me! Lord, help me! – exemplifies the prayer life many Christians have. We often wait to pray until we need help and are sinking. While there’s nothing wrong with asking God for help in times of distress, this can’t be the only time we pray.
Praying at least twice a day is ideal, first thing in the morning and just before going to bed. Our morning prayer prepares us for the day ahead and our night prayer gives us time to reflect on how well we did that day. At night we should look back over our day and give thanks to God for the blessings he sent our way and also tell him that we’re sorry for the times we failed him. If we’re honest, we should be able to identify both.
I think it’s safe to say that many of us have never been taught to pray, other than praying at Mass and reciting a few well-known prayers. We may not know where to start when it comes to private, personal prayer where we spend time alone with God. If that’s your situation, I have several excellent resources on prayer that I’d like to encourage you to check out.
They can be found at deaconscott.com, where I publish all of my homilies.
This homily will be published there by tomorrow morning and will include links to these prayer resources. The link to my site can also be found on the Clergy page of our parish website if you forget deaconscott.com.
Dear friends in Christ, nothing is more important than consistent daily prayer, it is literally food for the soul. We shouldn’t pray only when we feel trapped or feel like we’re sinking. Instead, we must all establish an unbreakable habit of daily prayer for the simple reason that it is good and right to do so and because of the daily nourishment it provides our soul.
We won’t always feel like praying, but keeping a daily prayer routine should not be contingent on how we feel. It’s about making a commitment to give God time each day to show him gratitude for our lives and for the many blessings he has given us. It’s also about listening to him when we need help and saying we’re sorry for the times we’ve failed him.
The fruit of a faithful life of daily prayer is that no matter what storms come our way, we will be able to go through them with serenity and faith in God’s goodness. It’s never too late to start a regular routine of daily prayer. And if you are already praying daily, it’s never too late to go even deeper. You’ll be amazed at how this will change your life! God bless you.