Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A: Who is your God?
Readings here: www.usccb.org/bible/readings/081317.cfm
The Lord is God. The Lord is God.
That is what Elijah’s name means. Eliahu. From the first reading. The Lord is God. But for you, who is your God?
We can think of the word, "God," in at least two different ways. One way is simply the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving being who created and sustains the world. In this way, when we say that the Lord is God, we’re saying that the Lord – the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – is the reason we’re alive.
We can also think of the word, "God," as what is of greatest value, what matters the most. In this way, when we say that the Lord is God, we’re saying that the Lord – the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – is what we value the most, is who matters the most. He’s not only the reason we’re alive; He is the reason why we live.
If we look around, watch TV, or check the internet, we’ll see that there are many gods in this second sense. For some, money is of the greatest value. It’s the reason why many people live, why they get up in the morning, why they work long hours, why they choose the friends they have, and why they do the things they do. For others, pleasure matters the most. It’s the reason why many people live, why they get up, work, choose friends, and do the things they do. And for still others, power matters the most. It’s the reason behind everything they do.
But for you, who is your God?
Money, pleasure, and power. These are the most impressive forces in the world. Much like a strong wind, earthquake, or fire grabs our attention, we can’t help but take notice of money, pleasure, and power, and if we’re not careful, they can become our god.
There is nothing wrong with money, pleasure, and power in themselves, but if they become the reason why we live, then we’re in trouble. Then, the Lord is not our God. We may know that the Lord is the reason we’re alive, but that is not enough for salvation. The Lord must be our God. He must be the reason why we live.
Who is your God?
One way to start answering this question is asking, "What are you most afraid of?” If you can answer this question, then you are well on your way in the spiritual life. And if your answer is sin, then you are well on your way to being a Saint. The person who fears sin more than anything else is the person whose God is the Lord.
What are you afraid of the most? Are you afraid of financial insecurity more than anything else? What about pain, loneliness, or embarrassment? Does losing your good name, title, or position keep you up at night? All of these fears are connected in some way to money, pleasure, and power. They are the most impressive forces in the world, and if we’re not careful, they, and not the Lord, can become our God.
A great image for this struggle of the spiritual life is the Gospel that we heard today. Peter and the disciples are in the boat, struggling against the storm. The storm, like the wind, fire, and earthquake, is an impressive sight. We can’t help but take notice.
The Gospel story is an event that really happened. Storms still brew on Lake Genesaret in the Holy Land today, putting boats in real danger. But I want to say that this event that really happened also has a spiritual meaning. Imagine that the storm represents money, pleasure, and power, the most impressive forces in our world. These forces are so impressive, that they are dangerous. They can overwhelm us – we see it in the thief who steals to get rich only to go to jail; the addict that ruins his life to get his next fix; or the leader in a business or government that has no friends because he trampled everyone down on his way up.
Money, pleasure, and power. They are the most impressive forces in the world, but Jesus walks right over them. They have no power over Him because He is God – God in the first sense: the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving being who is the reason why we and the storm exists at all. He is God.
But is He your God?
If He is your God, then you too will walk right over the storm, right over the most impressive forces in the world. You are not in danger of being overwhelmed because your God is the Lord. The only thing you fear is taking your eyes off of Him. The only thing you fear is sin.
At first, Peter walked right over the storm. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he had nothing to fear. Even the most impressive forces of the world could not overwhelm him. But the moment he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look at the storm, he became afraid, and he got overwhelmed. He started to drown.
Money, pleasure, and power remain powerful forces today – more powerful than we are by ourselves. They present us with real concerns: How will I pay for my children’s education? When will this pain go away? Why can’t I get a promotion? You don’t have to be a criminal or addicted to pleasure and power to be overwhelmed. But if we keep our eyes on Jesus, then we can walk right over any storm that assaults us.
Who is your God? What do you value most, and what are you most afraid of? These are questions to ponder in the silence of prayer, in the silence that allows us to hear the whisper of God, the whisper of God telling us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”