19th Sunday of Ordinary Time A
August 9, 2020 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Like Peter, up and down toward Jesus.
INTRODUCTION: Today we hear two contrasting images of God coming to
people. In the first reading we hear of God coming to Elijah not in the
wind, earthquake or fire. God comes in the tiny whispering sound. In
the Gospel we hear the account of Jesus coming to the Apostles walking
on the water. In this passage we encounter the first of three special
additions of Matthew’s Gospel concerning the Apostle Peter. 1) Peter
comes to Jesus on the water. (14:28?31) 2) We will hear the second
special section in two weeks. Peter is called the “rock” and given the
power of the keys (16:13?20). 3) Peter is consulted by Jesus about the
paying of the temple tax and is then instructed to take the shekel and
“give it to them for me and for you” (17:24?27).
HOMILY: The divine power of Jesus is stressed in his walking upon the
water. The book of Job describes God (Job 9:8) “He alone stretches out
the heavens and treads upon the crests of the sea.” There are many
references to God being the one who opened the way through the waters to
the freedom in the Exodus.
Jesus words to the frightened disciples echo the words naming God in
the book of Exodus. “Get hold of yourselves. It is I. Do not be
To the story as told by Mark, Matthew adds the story of Peter.
Peter the consistent spokesman for the disciples in this Gospel, asks to
duplicate Jesus’ own dominance over the chaos of the sea. He is able to
do what Jesus does. But as Matthew will do throughout the Gospel, he
likes to pair the disciples’ glory with their flaws. Peter frightened
by the power of nature begins to doubt the power of Jesus and begins to
sink. His response is the best instinctive response of the believer:
“Lord save me.” “Jesus at once stretched out his hand and caught him.”
There is a promise implicit in this reaching out of Jesus. Jesus is the
one ready to grant the prayer of the community who recognizes him as
Lord. Only after taking Peter by the hand does Jesus rebuke him with the
words, “How little faith you have. Why did you falter?” With these
words we have Matthew’s description of the disciples. “Men of little
faith.” He uses this expression five times of the disciples. For
Matthew the disciple in this life is always caught between faith and
doubt. The disciples attitude is yes…but…
At the end of the story according to Mark’s version the disciples
are completely lacking in understanding or faith. Mark adds, “but their
hearts were hardened.” But for Matthew, that boat crew images his own
church: buffeted, frightened, but clinging to belief, “men of little
faith”. The Matthean disciples (those in the boat: church) bow down in
adoration and profess Jesus’ divine sonship. This profession of faith
anticipates Peter’s profession at Caesarea Philippi which we will hear
in two weeks.
Lessons: l) Jesus comes to us at unexpected times and in unexpected
ways. 2) Jesus is the one who has the power over the chaos and
evil that the storm represents in the disciples lives and ours.
3) Jesus invites us to come to him. We are like Peter.
4) Jesus is available and wants to give us a helping hand.
We need to learn from Jesus. He first gives Peter
his helping hand and then he “rebukes” him.
I know people who almost always affirm prior to challenging. But I
also know many people who challenge and omit affirmation. I also
know parents who are strong in affirming their children and
weak in disciplining or correcting.
5) We like Peter are people of some faith that are
challenged to grow from being of “little faith.”
6) Sometimes in reaction to the miraculous presence of
Jesus we are like the disciples in Mark, lacking understanding and
faith. 7) Hopefully we will grow like the disciples in Matthew to
adore and worship Jesus as the Son of God.