August 8, 1999 -- 19th Sunday "A"
1 Kgs 19,9a,11-13a; Rom. 9,1-5; Matt. 14,22-33
H O M I L Y
The story of Jesus' walk on the water, which is linked with the miracle of the loaves by Matthew, Mark and John, records an experi ence of the disciples which has made a deep impression on these intimate companions of Jesus. The individual presentations diverge somewhat... but they all reach their peak in the encounter of Jesus with the disciples on the sea and the sublime and consoling words of Jesus: "Take heart, it is I; have no fear."
After the multiplication of the loaves Jesus tells the disciples to go to the other shore by boat, and himself, after sending the crowd away, goes to the mountain to pray. Then, towards the morning he comes to them walking on the water. Mark (6,48) has here a detail that seems a little strange, but that is of very great importance. He says that Jesus was going "to pass them by" when they saw him. How was he to pass them by, when he was explicitly going to meet them. The expression is obviously a allusion to some of the most powerful scenes of the O.T.
Moses wanted to see the face of God. God told him that he could not see his face and live but, God said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name" (Ex 33,19); he invited him to go on the top of mount Horeb and, he said, "While my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by (Ex 33,22).
The story of Elijah, (our first reading) is a repetition of what happened to Moses. Elijah hid in the same cleft of the rock, "And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord (1 Kgs 19,11)... and when the gentle breeze came, Elijah experienced the presence of God.
The fact is that God is constantly passing us by. Most of the time we are not aware of his passage, either because we are dis tracted, self-centered, or because we try to find him in extraordinary events, while he is passing by in the person of a brother, a friend, a poor who needs our help, etc.
Moses was sent back to his people; so was Elijah. The disciples, after that encounter with Jesus, suddenly found themselves on the shore ready to start a new day of missionary work with Jesus.
In our life, God gives us moments of intense intimacy with him like Peter, James and John had on Mount Thabor; and we may say like Peter: "It is good to be here, let's build some tents..." But our experience of God here on earth, is the experience of a God who simply passes us by, in the person of other human beings.