19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
07 Aug 2023

Reading I: I kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Psalm: 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14
Reading II: Romans 9:1-5
Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33


Watching the sunrise every morning as he sips a cup of coffee before heading out to work imbues Lance with the knowledge of the profundity of God, the beauty of creation and the presence of God in creation, ordering the movements, functions and activities of created things. For Lance, as you may imagine, this routine is an exercise in appreciation of his life, and more so, it serves as a prayerful reflection at the beginning of each day. Therefore, he would begin his day beholding in deep appreciation the presence of God in the experience of the rising of the sun that initiates in him a ritual prayer of gratitude, thanksgiving and request for divine ordering of his life and that of his loved ones just as the universe in its entirety is under God’s supervision.

This Sunday, the church offers us the invitation to discern where we find God, where God finds us, how the experience draws us deeper into the appreciation of the presence of God in the world, and how the presence of God invites us into fellowship, communion and unity with God and the world. For Prophet Elijah in the first reading, his experience of God took place on the mountain -traditionally known as a place of divine-human encounter- as he waited for God’s self-revelation with hope that God’s appearance at this critical time in his life as a “servant of God” would bring renewed confidence and hope. God appeared to him in a gentle, calm and serene natural phenomenon. God appeared to him in a gentle wind because that was the space the Prophet would most appreciate because of his current circumstances of undergoing persecution from the children of Israel and the royal family (1Kings 19:13).

In a similar vein, the disciples of Jesus experience a frightening situation at sea. While they were unnerved by the dangerous waves of the sea, Jesus came towards them walking on it (Matt 14:24, 25). It was not unusual among ancient cultures to attribute the behaviors of the sea to deities as the disciples concluded that the alleged ghost they were seeing was the cause of their near-death-experience at sea. While Elijah’s experience of threat to his life came from the royal family and the children of Israel (1Kings 19:2, 10, 14), the disciples of Jesus faced a life and death situation from the turbulent sea. The alleged ghost would intensify their fear, who they linked with the powers that control the sea. What was apparently clear to the disciples was the power of Jesus over the turbulent sea. The sea can toss around and threaten the boat and its occupants, but not Jesus who walks over it as a show of supreme power.

On his part, St. Peter displayed the human desire to flee from danger and seek safety from threats to our security, life and/or property. This is the same in the first reading with Prophet Elijah who fled from the royal family and the children of Israel seeking shelter at the mountain of God in Horeb, in the presence of God (1Kings 19: 2, 10, 14). St. Peter sought shelter from the turbulent sea by pleading with Jesus thus: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matt 14:28). Just as Yahweh displayed divine supremacy over the deities that the royal family had introduced into the religious life of the children of Israel (1Kings 18:36), likewise Jesus Christ displayed supreme power over the forces and deities of the sea by walking on it to bring St. Peter and the other disciples to safety. The stretching of the hands of Jesus was symbolic of St. Peter’s hapless situation and Jesus’ power to save him (Matt 14:31).

Let us focus our minds this Sunday to how natural phenomena disclose the presence of God, inviting us to embrace the summons from God to fellowship and communion. It is a remainder that God does not only reveal the profundity of divine presence to us through persons; the same divine revelation is mediated to us through nature. In other words, the environment also is the locus of our interaction with God just as humans are. Pope Francis captures this sentiment in Laudato Si when he observes “the history of our friendship with God is always linked to particular places which take on an intensely personal meaning; we all remember places, and revisiting those memories does us much good.” For Elijah, it was the whispering wind heralding the presence of God at Horeb, for Peter, it was the calmness of the sea when Jesus came to him in the midst of the rough wave and tide, and For Lance, it is the rising morning sun breaking through the window of his home, and ushering him into the presence of God. Then, let us be mindful of the space in which God comes to us with the grace of divine presence.


Ferdinand Okorie, CMF

Vice President and Academic Dean