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19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year A
August 9, 2020
Larry Gillick, SJ

You may want to pray ahead of time about the coming Sunday's Mass. If so, this page is for you. “Getting Ready to Pray” is to help you quiet down and engage your imagination (not just your mind).

Getting Ready to Pray                     

We pray these days as people on a journey. We are one form of God’s really being present. We have eaten of the Bread of Life, Jesus, both in the Eucharist and in our acceptance of him as the One Who Has Been Sent.

We pray for God’s accompanying us as we meet resistance to our own goodness and that of God. We pray for the gentle touch of the Eucharist in our hand and on our tongues which encourages us to get up, keep going, and show up for tomorrow. We may also pray not to argue about religion and religious beliefs, but live them convincingly.

Some Thoughts 

There is the gift of doubt and fear which make commitment and fidelity a simple gift of mine to God.

To understand Elijah’s journey and why he just wanted to die, one must read the previous chapter to the one from which our First Reading is taken. Elijah is being chased for good reasons by Jezebel and Ahab who have killed all the other prophets of Israel. Elijah in his turn has proven the prophets of Baal, who is a “god of fertility,” to be no god at all. That little piece of action you must read and enjoy in chapter eighteen (see 1 Kings 18). He has mocked their god and then slaughters all one hundred and fifty false prophets. They played for keeps in those days.

So Elijah is on the run, making for the mountain of the covenant. We see him exhausted, frustrated, and ready to quit. An angel wakes him and urges him to eat and drink; he does this twice. He then gets up and journeys for forty days and forty nights before arriving at Horeb.

What we read today is the deep listening which Elijah experienced while resting and hiding in a cave.

The Gospel begins with a dismissal of the crowds after the multiple feeding. Afterwards the disciples leave this kind of liturgy as well, and Jesus stays back to pray. It is quiet there, but out on the sea there is a storm and the disciples are in fearful trouble. It is a perfect learning time.

Jesus comes toward them walking on the water and the disciples cry out in fear. Jesus does the words of consecration, “It is I, do not be afraid.” Peter, who often puts his foot in his mouth does it again and Jesus invites him to put his foot on the water and “come.”

Peter responds eagerly, but gets a sinking feeling and Jesus catches him up and back into the boat where the others “of little faith” are awestruck and making the profound act of affirmation and faith, “Truly you are the son of God.”

Then in the Gospel, Peter hears the call, responds, and it seems that Jesus fails him, tricks him. Peter has faith, but fears as well. It seems that whenever Peter has a failure, Jesus reveals to Peter and the Gospel readers, even more clearly who Jesus is for those who can find faith within their fears. In the holy scriptures it seems that revelation takes place within the dramatic context of human and personal timidity and poverty.

I was just sitting here thinking and I heard a little fellow outside call out his friend’s name four times. Finally the lad shouted, “Come out and play!” What I heard next was, “Why not, are you afraid!” Really, that just happened. A call, a response and a reaction all within ten seconds!

John’s Gospel says that love casts out fear. That sounds good enough. Fear and doubt are appropriately human and so embraced by the love of the Creating God. I recall lying on the floor of Gesu Church in Milwaukee during the mass of my ordination to Christ’s priesthood. There was the singing of a long litany, but not quite long enough. I remember thinking, “If I had only a little more time, I’d be absolutely sure.” The singing ended, but not the unsureness. Thirty-nine years have past, but still there is the gift of doubt and fear which make commitment and fidelity a simple gift of mine to God. He drags me often into his boat of affirmation which lasts a while until the next big set of waves gives me that same sinking feeling. “You of little faith” is not a condemnation, but the context for Jesus becoming Lord and the Sender.

Lord, be true to your covenant,
forget not the life of your poor ones for ever.
(Psalm 74:20)

Larry Gillick, SJ

Larry Gillick, SJ, of Creighton University’s Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality, wrote this reflection for the Daily Reflections page on the Online Ministries web site at Creighton.

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go