Take courage, do not be afraid
Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9A, 11-13A • Ps 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14 • Rom 9:1-5 • Mt 14:22-33
The world’s attention is unfortunately, but understandably, regularly focused on the destructive force of natural events like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis, as well as on the violent human forces contending in conflicts in Central Europe, in the Middle East, in Africa, and in Latin America. In addition, we cannot help but be disturbed by so many forces intimately at odds with us: the aggression of temptation and sin, the debilitation of illness, the pain of emotional wounds, the intensity of the passions, and the assaults of demons. Indeed, the three enemies of our human nature–the world, the flesh, and the devil–are forces at war with us, striving to turn us away from Jesus and his saving Gospel. Yet, these negative forces are no match for the positive power–the Good News of Jesus. Yes, his grace, his presence with us, his provident love for us, is the greatest power in the universe–and no evil force can overcome him. That is the consoling message of the readings our Mother the Church offers for our meditation this Sunday: “Take courage, do not be afraid!” The power of God’s gentle mercy is greater than any opposing force.
We see this in the experience of the prophet Elijah: God’s presence is not revealed to him in the forceful wind, earthquake or fire, but in the power of his gently whispered word. In contrast to natural, worldly, damaging forces, God’s power is supernatural, otherworldly, life-giving, and so is manifested in tenderness, in calm, in peace.
We see this in the experience of the Psalmist. He proclaims the peace, salvation, glory, kindness, truth, justice, and benefits of God, to those who fear God. That is, those who believe God has the power to give every good gift, and who hope in God’s generous providence towards men, will enjoy the fruits of his Kingdom.
We see this especially in the experience of the Apostle Peter. Peter is fearful of the storm, but with the sight of Jesus walking on the water–so proving his divine power–Peter is emboldened to do the impossible. As long as he faithfully keeps his eyes fixed on Jesus–on God’s power to help him do the impossible–he walks on water; when he looks away from Jesus–at the storms raging around him–he sinks.
We see this in our own experience. When we have faith in the power of God’s grace, and hope in his provident presence with us, while keeping the eyes of our hearts focused on Jesus (especially through a rich sacramental life and by prayerfully meditating his word)–then we can accomplish anything through his grace. We have the courage to weather any storm, to avoid any temptation and sin, to endure any illness, to be healed of any wound, to govern any passion, to conquer any demon, to love our enemies, to lay down our lives as martyrs–to overcome any evil–that is, to do what seems impossible. On the other hand, those of little faith, those who do not acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God with power over the forces of evil, those who have not experienced his forgiveness, healing, salvation–they are fearful, they doubt, they despair of ever overcoming the evils that assail them because they seem impossible to face–and they are sinking.
St. John of the Cross states that: “It is not the will of God that the soul should be troubled by any thing.” May we never be disturbed by the force of the storms around us, but always courageously believe and hope in Jesus’ saving power, with the eyes of our hearts fixed confidently on him.