If we are seeking a foundation from the Old Testament for Jesus’ Sermon the Mount in general and / or the Beatitudes in particular then search no further than THIS...
TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MATTHEW 14: 22 – 33]
ends with the words “and those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘truly you are the Son of God’.“
What does it really and basically mean to worship someone or something? As soon as this answer is clearly formulated let me ask myself whether I am a true and real worshipper of God-in-Christ?
As Catholics we frequently speak of ‘adoration of the Blessed Sacrament’. Is adorationidentical to worship? Here one of our difficulties is the fact that in contemporary society the words adore and adoration have been grossly weakened and diluted in much the same way as the word love.
If we read the Gospel verse quoted above, we should discern a clue to all this. Worship, in its essential meaning includes the element of a recognition and acceptance of some sort of specific and superior quality. Truly you are the Son of God!
There is a lesson to be learnt in we compare the Peter of today’s Gospel verses and Elijah in
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [1 KINGS 19a. 11 – 13a]. At once, bear in mind that in Old Testament language the wrapping of one’s mantle or cloak around the face indicated the recognition AND acceptance that one was in the presence of a person who had the power of authority over you. It was a power that was freely and willingly accepted.
Now see that Elijah responded without hesitation to the command “go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” At the same time hear the hesitation expressed by Peter when he says: “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Our comparisons should continue. Elijah recognises the Lord in the least spectacular of the events and responds immediately – with the mantle covering his face he “went and stood at the entrance of the cave.” On the other hand, Peter looks for the spectacular. In some strange way he ‘tests’ the presence of Jesus walking on the water by asking for the same ability. There is no covering of his face.
The prophet does not test. He recognises and accepts that here there is something and someone who is in control of the situation. In a strange but real way Peter attempts to retain an element of control.
Now we are able to ask ourselves an important question. How much of the worship we offer to our Christian God secretly attempts to retain an element of questioning, control and even bargaining? Somehow or other I want
(need?) to be absolutely certain before I go to stand at entrance to the cave! The bargaining element from time to time rears its ugly head in many of us … Lord, if it IS you I really promise to become a great deal better than I am at present – but I need to know before I begin any real effort!
Once again today’s Gospel presents us with the fact that at the sight of Jesus the disciples are afraid. We need to hear, over and over again, Jesus’ immediate response. “Take heart, it IS I; have no fear.” Why, so often, do I fear? What is the reason for my hesitancy? Do I fear to truly worship? Am I hesitant to accept and recognise? Do I really believe, as
TODAY’S PSALM [85 or 84] tells me, that the Lord will guide my steps on the way.
A further point on which it is worth reflecting – do I really doubt or is it rather a matter of questioning? “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I am convinced that rather than any genuine doubts most of us go through periods of questioning. Elijah never doubted but he did question the Lord’s plans for, and call of, him. In fact a few verses before this Sunday’s reading he was trying to run away from both plan and call. He had said, more or less, ‘
Lord, enough is enough – I am out of here.’ We know, of course, that he came to his senses and journeyed on to Horeb – and there “the word of the Lord came to him.“
God’s word, call and plan come to me only when I am ‘where’ he intends me to be. I prefer to hear Jesus saying to me,
why did you question – rather than why did you doubt. Peter and the other disciples in the boat were not, as yet, ‘where’ Jesus wanted them to be. Is this why, as we heard last Sunday,Jesus took them apart to the mount of transfiguration?
At this stage of my life I must ask myself
WHERE IS IT that the Lord wants me to be – safe in the boat – or eager to walk on the water?
The important matter is that Jesus understands my questioning. In response to Peter’s question he simply says one word – ”
COME.” Peter accepted the invitation but the ‘challenges’ he encountered filled him with fear and “he began to sink.” We all know the feeling. We must all learn to stretch out our hand to the hand Jesus always, and immediately, stretches out to us. My hand must also stretch out.