Where can we find God in the midst of the pandemic and all the sufferings from the trials and tribulations today?
Today’s readings of the 19th Sunday in ordinary time can enlighten us in responding to this question.
In the first reading, the prophet Elijah was running away from Jezebel who wanted to kill him. Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah because Elijah denounced her evil ways. Elijah feared for his life so he hid in a cave. He was exhausted, frustrated, and ready to quit. In the midst of the fear and woeful situation of Elijah, God appeared to Elijah not in the strong wind, earthquake, and fire but in a tiny whispering sound.
In the Gospel, the disciples were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on the water whom they thought to be a ghost. Then, Peter asked Jesus if he could walk on the water too and come to him. Jesus said, come. But Peter became terrified at the strong winds and big waves and he began to sink. Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
From these readings, the answer we can give to our question at the beginning is that God is at the center of all the sufferings and hardships we are experiencing amidst the pandemic and the many ills of our society today. The gospel taught us that as Jesus walked in the water amidst the big waves and raging sea, Jesus is walking at the center of the pandemic, the racial conflict and tension, environmental crisis and the many problems that the world faces today.
On the other hand, the story of Elijah taught us that God cannot be found in the mighty, extraordinary and powerful. We need to lower our sights, so to speak, from the powerful to the powerless, from the rich to the poor, from the satisfied to the suffering, from the oppressors to the oppressed. We have to listen carefully to the tiny whispering sound of God’s presence in the midst of our powerlessness, fears and failures.
If God is right at the center of the pandemic especially among the weak, the poor and the lowly what response is required of us? The readings calls us to a response of faith. The gospel showed us that faith is a kind of walking on water; faith is following Jesus who walks on the rough waters of our lives. Peter was the first to show us the example. The example of Peter, however, also showed us how not to walk on the water with Jesus. For as long as Peter doesn’t look down and keeps his eyes fixed on Jesus he does not sink in the water. When he looks away from Jesus and focus on the frightening wind and waves, he begins to sink.
In the midst of the pandemic and the many ills we face in the world, we tend to focus on the immensity of the hardship and suffering we are experiencing. The enormous difficulties makes us think that God is far away from us, that God has abandoned us and God is just watching us from a distance. Jesus, however, showed us in the gospel that God is walking with us as we face the pandemic. This gooid news challenges us to find God right in the heart of our suffering and hardships.
Amidst all the gigantic problems we face, however, we tend to ask the Lord to intervene and do extra-ordinary things for us. But God’s response is often not through spectacular ways (like in a strong wind, earthquake and fire) but in the small and ordinary, which can be often found in unexpected moments and places.
In the midst of our fears, God’s gives us encouragement; God gives us courage. Jesus told Peter, “Courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Courage comes from the root word in French cor which means heart, core or being. In giving courage, Jesus is telling us to bravely accept the truest reality of our lives; the courage to be. The truest reality of our lives is that we are created by God and destined to live with God in his Kingdom.
By inviting us to walk in the water, Jesus challenges us to leave behind our securities. Jesus wants us to step out of the boat of our comfort zones and securities. Jesus invites us to take the plunge with him. Jesus wants us to let go of our worldly anchors. Instead, Jesus wants us to anchor on his life and good news.
Lord, help us to see you walking on our sea–raging with an out of control pandemic, racial injustice, environmental crisis and the many ills in our world today. Let us listen to your voice calling us to come to you.