Deacon Joe Bell gave the homily for this Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. He pointed out how St. Peter only directly engages the water in only one other place in the Dedicated Writings, the Gospel of John, where St. Peter jumps into the sea to get to Jesus all the faster, swimming, to be with Jesus. He then argues how we can either look to the sea of the world with all of its problems or we can look to Jesus, his calm, and then have the faith to walk even upon water.
Deacon Joe Bell’s homily failed to mention what looking to Jesus means in practical terms. How do we look to Jesus during the hard times? Does it mean hiding in a church like ostriches, afraid to confront the world? Does it mean engaging the Church as a Christian Community, calmed by faith in Jesus, and what does that mean.
Deacon Joe Bell, as excellent as his homily was, could have pointed to a couple of passages in defining what he meant. The first was the first reading: I Kings 19:9-13
The key word from the passage is the whispering sound, in Hebrew Damee. It means both, “My Blood,” and “Silence.” It is the same word Genesis uses in relation to Cain’s killing of Able, where it says, “My blood of your brother calls to me from Adam/the ground.” This can also be translated as, “The silence of your brother calls to me from the ground.”
We can confront the raging waves caused by the wind blowing against us in several waves. The first is the strong wind. God is not in the strong wind. The strong wind is the strong winds of the world distracting us, just as it distracted St. Peter from seeing Jesus walking upon the water. After the wind is the earthquake of our fingers, fidgeting, pounding the table as we sit next to it, trying to meditate.
God is not there. After the earthquake is the fire of our great enlightenment; we finally come to grand insights. God is not in those grand insights. Last comes the silence. Last comes seeing God’s blood as it dwells in all human beings, and in everything God created.
God is not in the anger we feel at the gay’s trying to impose their lifestyle upon us as they strive to express their lifestyle in the world. God is not in the anger of the anti-abortionists killing abortion doctors in the name of God. God is not in the person who runs for public office because, “God told me to.” God is in the silence of the moral majority striving to live out their lives, traveling from conception to the grave in peace.
The second passage, is the continuation of our Gospel. If the Gospel is about looking to Jesus, the continuation of the passage should point to what looking to Jesus means. “After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret (Garden of Guarding.) When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.”
Look to the tassels, which Numbers 15: 37-41 mentions, and which is the final paragraph of the Standing prayer all Jews from the second century before the Common Era until pray until today. Jesus prayed this prayer. If only the people could touch Jesus’ tassels, which point to Torah and commandments, which point to the heritage of what it means to be Jewish, they would be healed. If only the people could touch the essence of what it means to be freed from the land of Oppression/Egypt, Deuteronomy 5:1-7, they would be healed.
As pointed out in the article, “Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time teaches about Moses, Pharaoh and Pharisee,” the essence of our reading is about the heritage of leadership, and true leadership is about leading the people out into the wilderness, with compassion, pointing the way to the Promised Land.”