What fear is holding us back?


Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I Kings 19:9, 11-13

Romans 9: 1-5

Matthew 14:22-23


I am not going to give you the homily I have written in my pocket. It is a good homily, but it is not my homily. Let me explain. Each week I spend a few hours in preparation for this homily. On Friday evening, I go to my good friend Msgr. Duncan and we talk over our ideas and try to get it down to one idea. I left his house feeling pretty good about what we came up with but not 100%. I woke up at 2:30 in great fear knowing it was his homily, not mine. When I preach, I need to preach from my heart, and I know when it is and I know when it is not. I woke up this morning and again poured all over the readings. What I have come to understand is that the readings have a lot to do with fear. Fear can be a good thing, but when it prevents us from doing what God wants us to do, fear becomes a bad thing. I know I have preached on this theme before but there is more to learn about how to handle fear in our lives as it was the number one topic that Jesus preached on in his ministry. I discovered that I did just what Elijah and peter did in their fear. I let fear become a crisis, there was an invitation to get rid of the fear from God, and then there is a response to the fear. So what fear is preventing us from being the person that God wants us to be?


In our first reading, Elijah is running away in fear as he has just killed all the false prophets of Queen Jezebel and now she wants him dead. In fear Elijah runs out into the desert, and he runs until he can run no longer, then he lays down and begs God to take his life. This is bad fear, for fear has trapped him into thinking of all the wrong things. An angel provides food and water, and Elijah gets up and makes his way to a cave. Elijah is still in fear so he begs to know the presence of God. God sends all the traditional ways of how he has revealed himself to others, he sends a mighty wind, an earthquake, and fire but God is not in any of those things. When God sends a tiny whisper, Elijah hides his face in his cloak, for now, he knows he has experienced the presence of God. The new spiritual insight into knowing what to do when fear comes is that God does not always come to us in the traditional ways. God can use anything to eliminate fear from our lives.  


In our Gospel, the disciples are filled with great fear as that are crossing the sea without Jesus and a huge storm blows up on the sea. When Jesus comes to them, walking on water, they are filled with more fear, as they fear it is a ghost. Jesus tries to calm their fear by saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter responds, “If it is you, make me walk out on to this water.” Peter climbs over the side of the boat, and as long as Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus he walks above the waves, and the wind is no problem. However, as soon as Peter feels the wind and the water, be gins to sink. Jesus is there to save him and bring him back to the boat. The other new insight into dealing with fear is when we call on the name of Jesus we are only sending our RSVP to Jesus because he has already been coming to us. This is called, prevenient grace, grace that comes before. Jesus was already heading out to them because he could see the storm, he could sense they did not know what to do, so he came to them.


What fear is preventing us from being the person that God wants us to be? What fear is trapping us? In this Eucharist may we hear the whisper of God say to us, “Do not be afraid, I am here?” And let us be like the disciples who proclaim, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”


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