lunes, 11 de agosto de 2014

From missing to munching the message of the moment

St Peter is Walking on the Water by: BORRASSA, Luis (b. ca. 1360, Gerona, d. 1425, Barcelona) taken from: Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ps 85: 9, 10, 11–12, 13–14
Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
1st Reading: 1 K 19:9a, 11–13a
2nd Reading: Rom 9:1–5
Gospel: Mt 14:22–33

The usual interpretation of the Scripture Readings this 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) often gravitates towards Peter’s lack of faith to which most of us Christians can easily identify. Let us, however, take a look at some other unnoticed side story to these pericopés. Though we still cannot give Peter a total rest for now, we can at least put another character beside him for study purposes as we deal with the nature of God placed alongside our human nature.

The First Reading from the First Book of Kings recounts to us a scene in the life of the prophet Elijah who received word that, “the Lord will be passing by.” Several natural occurrences came one after another; “a strong and heavy wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks,” (hyperbolic exaggerations, of course), earthquake, and fire. Elijah did not budge at all, for he knew “the Lord was not there.” Only after hearing a “tiny, whispering sound,” did Elijah come out of the cave after veiling his face with his cloak, for then he understood that God had finally come.

Wait a minute! Doesn’t this kind of divine presence run counter to the various manifestations of God in the other books of the Sacred Scriptures — a great pillar of cloud or a huge pillar of fire in Exodus; the earthquake and splitting rocks at Jesus’ death on the cross in Matthew; the strong, driving wind at Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles? It certainly does and that is exactly the point — God comes into our lives in a manner beyond our expectations, for we can never confine Him to just the way we want Him to be. He often uses the forces the nature to make His presence felt, but the “how” part we can never know until it is there and only if we are totally attuned to Him.

The Gospel Reading pushes that same message a bit further. It presents to us Jesus as a tranquil, — though in the disciples’ eyes ghostly, if not terrifying — figure walking on water in the midst of a stormy sea (or lake, to be exact). Here is a Jesus appearing as the Son of God who exhibits His power over and above nature by just casually walking on tempestuous water as if it was the most ordinary thing anyone can do. And why can’t he? He is, after all, for He is God, who this time not only uses nature but reveals that He is even beyond it.

Such is the nature of God’s presence manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. He is a citadel of stability in the midst chaos, stable but unpredictable by earthly standards, calm yet arresting, in the world but not of this world, human and yet God.

Now here is where human nature comes into play. Those mentioned above would have been enough proof for the disciples to realize who indeed Jesus is, but they were too caught in their own fear both of the storm and of Jesus’ ghostly appearance. Nobody could utter a word (if the Gospel’s silence on any other reaction may be read as such) even after Jesus had already identified himself by saying, “it is I; do not be afraid.”

What broke the silence was Peter’s brash reaction. Let us give it to Peter whose untamed nerve to lead seemed to have provoked him to say something as if in behalf of all those on board. He was probably thinking that, since no one seemed to want to speak up, someone ought to, at least, regardless of how reckless it would be. In the face of such a marvelous act by Jesus, Peter dared to react without much thought or reflection. So we can therefore say now that it was not his lack of faith alone that caused his sinking as he attempted to walk on water. It was, first of all, his impulsive nature that led to his blooper before the eyes of Jesus and his companions.

Somehow we can probably say he learned his lesson. It must be noted though that this was not the only time Peter acted impetuously as written the Scriptures (recall his statement at the Transfiguration both in Mark and Luke and in John’s account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet). Significantly, however, his reaction here gives a stark contrast to that of Elijah in the First Reading.

While Peter acted on impulse after having seen Jesus’ spectacle, Elijah on the other hand, neither spoke nor moved at all while nature went a-raging. His characteristic stillness helped him discern and reflect where God is or how He was to manifest His presence. This is what we oftentimes lack — the will to calm ourselves, take a pause or hold still, so that we may create the ideal setting for reflection and discernment before making any crucial move at a fortuitous moment that can make or break us, elevate or disgrace us.

The worst part is missing the message of the moment because we are either overwhelmed by emotion or by our compulsive nature to say or do something immediately even when the best option was to take a pause and observe. By this time we already know who between Peter and Elijah hit the mark. But hold your breath — it was not Peter alone who missed the point. Actually, all the disciples did: while Peter was preoccupied with what to say or do, the rest were all overcome with fear followed by amazement (just a few minutes later), ignoring the glaring message behind Jesus’ act. Only after the Peter’s “sinking” gaffe and when the sea has finally calmed did they all get back to their senses and said, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Let us therefore choose to be like Elijah who got to munch the message of the moment instead of missing it.

Lord, human as we are, we can easily give way to our emotions, temperaments and compulsive behaviors, causing us to ignore unintentionally Your presence or Your message. Grant us the grace of serenity and composure whether in times of trouble, confusion or bewilderment so that we may create a perfect setting for reflection and discernment. We acknowledge both Your power beyond nature and Your genius to use it to make Yourself known to us even in ways we cannot easily notice and comprehend. Teach us then to reflect and discern so that we may read Your signs and respond properly to them. Amen.

by: Br. Dennis Mercurio [CJM]

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