By Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S.
Have you ever completed an accomplishment, overcome a fear, or come to full circle on something, only to shrink back to the same place that you started out? When I was in the eighth grade, I went out in a canoe onto Wolf Lake with my friends Vinnie and Chris. We charged across to the Illinois side of Wolf Lake in late October. We felt like attacking Vikings on the way out to Illinois.
On the way back, the wind challenged and confused us. I went from conquering Nordic mariner to a man made of straw in minutes. We came back safely because we concluded that we were working too hard individually to steer the canoe. We placed faith in each other’s efforts and just let the wind generally push and pull us. We were fishermen or Boy Scouts, experienced in how to handle a boat, but just forgot ourselves in a moment of panic.
The characters in this Sunday’s readings display the same emotions of over-confidence, fear then recovery. Maybe we all do sometimes.
In the first reading, it’s important to know what Elijah did before this moment. He led a reprisal against Queen Jezebel’s evil prophets of Baal. These so-called prophets conscripted, taxed and otherwise made life hell for the Israelites. Elijah and his friends may have killed up to 1,000 of these people. Jezebel promises revenge. Instead of countering Jezebel’s threats with more reprisals, Elijah flees to the protection of Mount Horeb. Elijah is feeling at his lowest, afraid of Jezebel, when God calls Elijah out of his cave with a whispering voice. The author emphasizes: NOT the wind, earthquake, or fire is an anti-Baal punch to the face.
In the second reading, Paul speaks of his current anguish and on one hand, wishes sometimes he was cut off from Christ. On the other hand, he is connected to something bigger, which drowns out whatever negative emotions he is feeling. Paul realizes that his ministry is connected to a profound past. It is also a bridge to something that is bigger in the future. The anguish of the present is diminished.
In the Gospel, the Apostles are in a boat. They just witnessed their leader perform a miracle then assisted him in feeding 5,000 people with very limited resources. Now they are freaking out in a boat that is topsy-turvy in a storm, and watching their leader walk on the water. Peter, in his classic head full-of-steam manner, steps out into the lake only to sink.
Maybe it is the “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” that is most important. Our little faith is a limited resource that God taps into to feed 5,000 people and more. We mortals act with boldness, then shrink with fear. Then we recover. We may look for God in certain signs besides fire or wind. Maybe God is talking to us, coaxing us out of our caves, and, like Jesus did with limited resources to feed 5,000 people, God can do this to us with our limited resources. After all, our fears are really small; we are connected to something bigger, better, greater than our small fears.