In the Lectionary of the Roman Catholic Church, the Old Testament reading and the Gospel for this Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, highlight for us two different ways of experiencing God’s presence in our lives. In the Gospel (Matthew14:22-33), we hear of Jesus walking on the water toward the boat the disciples were in, which was being tossed about by waves and wind — and at night no less! (Anyone who has been on Lake Huron, or any body of water for that matter, in rough weather, and especially in darkness, knows how frightening that is.) As Jesus approaches the boat, and at Peter’s request, Jesus allows him to walk on the water too. Then when Peter gets distracted, and his faith falters and he begins to sink and panic, Jesus saves him.
In the Old Testament reading from 1 Kings (19:9a, 11-13a), the prophet Elijah is told by God to go stand on the mountain of God (i.e. Mt. Horeb), and the Lord will pass by. There were strong and heavy winds, then an earthquake, then fire, but God was not in those spectacular things. Then there was a tiny whispering sound – and in that Elijah recognized God’s presence.
What am I getting at in recounting these two events? Yes, God is present in those spectacular moments of life, but also in the apparently more mundane. It is so easy to be awed by what is spectacular and to experience God’s presence in those “special” moments, and to want more of those kinds of events in our lives. But most lives are made up of what is ordinary – and that is not a bad thing, nor is it a settling for, or getting, what is second best. If you look up the word “ordinary” you will find descriptive terms like: usual, everyday, normal, regular, familiar, average. These all sound so … well … ordinary. And then something else to consider, is that what is ordinary for you might not be my experience of ordinary. (Please don’t take this as a form of “relativism”, which is a term used to communicate the mistaken notion that there is no objective morality, but that each person decides his/her own morality according to their own limited life experience. That is another topic, for possibly another time.)
The wonderful thing in all this is that God loves us all; not just humanity as a whole (which, of course, God does), but also each separate person, and reaches into each of our individual lives, no matter how spectacular or ordinary or different our lives are — if we but let God in. (I saw the following in a Jewish prayer book: “Where is God? Wherever you let God in.”) And just like Peter frantically asking Jesus to save him from sinking and possibly drowning, when we are frightened and desperate and ask Jesus to save us, he is always willing to do so. But we don’t have to – and shouldn’t – wait for a frightful moment to ask. The problem with many people in the world today is they don’t “feel” the need to be saved by God. Whether we “feel” the need or not, let God in your life — let Jesus Christ save you.
Fr. Joe Muszkiewicz, pastor of All Saints Catholic Parish in Alpena.