Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife by John Bridges, 1839

Christ, a Presence That Saves

XIX Sunday of Ordinary Time – August 13, 2017

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Roman Rite
1King 19.9.11-13; Ps 85; Rm 9, 1-5; Mt 14: 22-33
XIX Sunday of Ordinary Time – August 13, 2017
Ambrosian Rite
1King 8, 15-30; Ps 48; 1 Cor 3: 10-17; MK 12, 41-44
X Sunday after Pentecost
1) The Prayer of Jesus
By reading the text of the Gospel proposed by the liturgy, our attention is captured by Christ who manifests his power by walking on waters and calming the storm… However, before talking about the power with which Christ manifests his deity, I would like to draw attention to two facts that frame today’s Gospel: the solitary prayer of Jesus (“he went up on the mountain, alone, to pray” Mt 14.23) and the little faith of Peter (“man of little faith, why have you doubted?”(Mt 14, 31).
In the intense pace of his days, Jesus always finds time for prayer. The Son of God made man prays in solitude, in the night (Mt 14, 23; Mk 1, 35; Lk 5: 16), and before a meal (Mt 14, 19; 15, 36; 26, 26-27). He prays at the time of important events: for his baptism on the Jordan river (Lk 3, 21), before choosing the twelve Apostles, (Lk 6, 12), at the transfiguration on the Mount Tabor (Lk 9: 28-29), before teaching to pray (Lk 11: 1, Mt 6, 5), in the garden of Gethsemane (Mt 26: 36-44), and on the cross (Mt 27:46; Lk 23:46). He prays for his executioners (Lk 23.34), for Peter (Lk 22.32), for his disciples, and those who follow them (Jn 17: 9-24). He prays also for himself (Mt 26, 39; 17.1 to 5; Heb 5: 7). He teaches how to pray (Mt 6, 5), and reveals a permanent relationship with the Father (Mt. 11: 25-27) certain that he never leaves him alone (Jn 8, 29) and always hears him (Jn 11, 22, 42; Mt26, 53). Finally he promises (Jn 14:16) to continue to intercede for us in his glory (Rm 8, 34; Heb 7.25; 1 Jn 2, 1).
I confess that I would love to know the secret of Christ’s prayer, even if I know that it is impossible to get into Him completely. However, you can enter at least a little, bearing in mind – first of all – that Jesus has always turned to God by calling him by the name of Father. That of Jesus is first and foremost a filial prayer. Addressing God as Father, Jesus reveals the truly unique relationship that binds him to Him. In this regard, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus was also aware of being a man, and as a man – in solitude – he was confronted with the Father and His Word to constantly find the clarity of his evangelical path and the courage to travel on it.
Secondly, it should be noted that the prayer of Jesus is obedient. It is the prayer of the Son and, at the same time, it is the prayer of the Lord’s Servant, because the relationship with the Father implies familiarity and obedience. The consciousness of one’s filiation and total dependence are the two pillars of Jesus’ prayer. They are the essential structures of his person and should be for every Christian. If we pray in authentic, total and subsidiary dependence, our prayer will be heard already in the moment we address it. Perhaps it will be accomplished in a way different than the one we expected, but it will really be granted. And each time we’ll be astonished by the infinite possibility of fulfillment that God has given to our lives giving the Life in truth and in love.
“Let us pray, dear brothers,” writes St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage,” like God, the Master, has taught us. It is a confidential and intimate prayer to pray to God with what is his, to raise up the prayer of Christ to his ears. May the Father recognize the words of his Son, when we say: the One who lives inside the soul may be present also in the voice … When praying, there is also a way of speaking and praying that, with discipline, let us keep calm and privacy. Let us think that we are in front of God’s gaze. We must be liked in the eyes of the divine both with the attitude of the body and with the tone of the voice … And when we gather together with our brothers  and sisters and celebrate the divine sacrifices with the priest of God, we must remember reverential fear and discipline, neither giving to the wind our prayers with rumbling voices, nor throwing with tumultuous verbosity a request that should be recommended to God in moderation for God is a listener not of the voice but of the heart (not vocis sed cordis auditor est) “(St. Cyprian, Our Father: The Prayer of Lord 3-4). These are words that are also valid today and help us celebrate the Holy Liturgy in the Church and pray well alone at home.
2) The Prayer of Peter and ours.
In addition to the prayer of Christ, the gospel of today shows us the prayer of St. Peter who by faith got out of the boat and walked on the waters toward Jesus.  Despite the fact that he left the boat because he believed in Christ, the Apostle Peter has a lack of faith and, while he is sinking, he prays better crying “Lord, save me!”
The  Chief of the Apostles’ little faith is reheated by prayer.  The important thing is to have faith, even if not a great one, great, and to pray like Peter: “Lord, save me!” To better explain the previous statement, I propose to go back to the dialogue between Peter, fisherman of fish, and Jesus, fisherman of men, as it is told by the Gospel of today. The First among the Apostles walks on the waters like Jesus not thanks to his own power. His ability to walk on water depends solely on the word of the Lord (“come!”). His strength lies in faith. This is a great lesson for each of us. If we are faithful clinging to Christ, we can do the same miracles of the Lord. But if this faith does waver (man of little faith, why did you doubt?”), then we return to be easy prey of the forces of evil. The doubt, referred to here, is not the intellectual doubt about the truths of Faith, but it is due to the lack of total abandonment and trusting love in Christ in the face of the difficulties of life.
The important thing is that we take the stretched hand of Christ. Saint Augustine of Hippo, imagining   to speak to St. Peter, writes: the Lord “has come down and took you by hand. With your own strength you cannot get up. Take the hand of Him who comes down to you “(Enarr in Ps. 95: PL 36, 1233). He says this not only to the Head of the Apostles, but also to us. Saint Peter walks on the waters not by his own strength, but by the divine grace, in which he believes. When he is overwhelmed by doubt, when he no longer looks at Jesus, but is afraid of the wind, when he does not fully trust the Master’s word, it means that he, in the depth of is heart, is moving away from him. Then he is likely to sink into the sea of ​​life. And so do we : if we look only to ourselves, we become dependent on winds and we can no longer overcome the storms of life. The fearful fatigue of the Galilean Fisherman makes us understand that, before we even seek or call him, the Redeemer in person comes to us, “he lowers the heaven “to offer his hand and bring us to its height. The only thing Christ demands is that we totally trust him, grasping his stretched hand with strength. In this way, we will more deeply understand God’s truth, and we will experience his love, which drags us out of the “space” of the stormy waters of life and introduces us to the space of the true peace that God gives, as we see today in St. Peter’s.
Let us pray Mary, whom in a few days we will be celebrated as Ascended into heaven. The assumption of Mary into Heaven with her body is the source of light to understand the meaning of ours earthly pilgrimage and a luminous example of loving trust and total abandonment. In this way, even among the worries and the difficulties that shake the sea of ​​our lives, the reassuring word of Jesus who also tells us: “Courage, I am I, do not be afraid “, will resound in our hearts and our faith will grow in Him.
The solemnity of the Assumption prevents us from transforming our lives into a pilgrimage without a destination, a sailing on a boat with stormy seas without a harbor.
Finally, the usual reflection that is especially addressed to the consecrated virgins, but that I think it’s useful to everyone. On the day of the Assumption, the Church (therefore us) celebrates Mary’s ascended body to heaven, or better, the person of Mary ascended into heaven in her integrity, body and soul. Today, we easily understand that the salvation come from the resurrection of Jesus, does not concern only our soul, our person in its spiritual dimension. It is not reduced to its spiritual dimension. It’s also body. The human person is a person with a body and our body has a spiritual dimension. The Christian salvation would not be true if it were not also a saving of the body. It is very clear in St. Paul’s exhortation “I urge you, therefore, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice “(Rm 12, 1). And again: “… don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit that is in you and that you have received from God ….? Therefore, glorify God in your body “(1 Cor 6: 19.20). The offering of the body in consecrated virginity is the highest example of how one can seriously take the Saint Paul exhortation and invites us not be fooled by the seductions of the world. Many exhibitions and celebrations of the body that characterize our time are actually contempt for the body. A contempt that in the commercial spots, uses the woman’s body to sell a product.
“Therefore glorify your body!” The human body is for the glory when a human person lives his or her sexuality in loving obedience to God’s will, which is to say in obedience to the very meaning of sexuality, and to its more natural, intimate and original meaning that is not to sell or to throw the body away, but to donate it. The word chastity immediately explains austerity and self-rule. But it does not consist only in governing the passions by force. Evangelical self-rule is about delivering myself with trust to the One who created me, loves me and knows me better than myself. It is to make space within the self for the lordship of Christ that is to feel loved by Him and to wish to believe in Him and to reciprocate his love complying with what he asks. Conversion, that is, the orderly government of my person, is the attitude I take when I feel loved by God. The consecrated virgins have the vocation of living, witnessing, and reflecting this love of God.
  Patristic Reading
   Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
    Sermon XXVI On Mt 14,25: Of the Lord walking on the waves of the sea, and of Peter tottering
1). The Gospel which has just been read touching the Lord Christ, who walked on the waters of the sea;1 and the Apostle Peter, who as he was walking, tottered through fear, and sinking in distrust, rose again by confession, gives us to understand that the sea is the present world, and the Apostle Peter the type of the One Church. For Peter in the order of Apostles first, and in the love of Christ most forward, answers oftentimes alone for all the rest. Again, when the Lord Jesus Christ asked, whom men said that He was, and when the disciples gave the various opinions of men, and the Lord asked again and said, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to Him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.”2 Then He added, “and I say unto thee.” As if He had said, “Because thou hast said unto Me, ‘Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God;’ I also say unto thee, ‘Thou art Peter.’” For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and that in a figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock (Petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (Petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called3 from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. “Therefore,” he saith, “Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock” which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou hast acknowledged, saying, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church;” that is upon Myself, the Son of the living God, “will I build My Church.” I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon thee.

  1. For men who wished to be built upon men, said “I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas,”4 who is Peter. But others who did not wish to be built upon Peter, but upon the Rock, said, “But I am of Christ.” And when the Apostle Paul ascertained that he was chosen, and Christ despised, he said, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”5 And, as not in the name of Paul, so neither in the name of Peter; but in the name of Christ: that Peter might be built upon the Rock, not the Rock upon Peter.
  2. This same Peter therefore who had been by the Rock pronounced “blessed,” bearing the figure of the Church, holding the chief place in the Apostleship,6 a very little while after that he had heard that he was “blessed,” a very little while after that he had heard that he was “Peter,” a very little while after that he had heard that he was to be “built upon the Rock,” displeased the Lord when He had heard of His future Passion, for He had foretold His disciples that it was soon to be. He feared test he should by death, lose Him whom he had confessed as the fountain of life. He was troubled, and said, “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be to Thee.”7 Spare Thyself, O God, I am not willing that Thou shouldest die. Peter said to Christ, I am not willing that Thou shouldest die; but Christ far better said, I am willing to die for thee.

And then He forthwith rebuked him, whom He had a little before commended; and calleth him Satan, whom he had pronounced “blessed.” “Get thee behind Me, Satan,” he saith, “thou art an offence unto Me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”8 What would He have us do in our present state, who thus findeth fault because we are men? Would you know what He would have us do? Give ear to the Psalm; “I have said, Ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the Most High.” But by savouring the things of men; “ye shall die like men.”9 The very same Peter a little while before blessed, afterwards Satan, in one moment, within a few words! Thou wonderest at the difference of the names, mark the difference of the reasons of them. Why wonderest thou that he who was a little before blessed, is afterwards Satan? Marc the reason wherefore he is blessed. “Because flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven.”10 Therefore blessed, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee. For if flesh and blood revealed thisto thee, it were of thine own; but because flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven, it is of Mine, not of thine own. Why of Mine? “Because all things that the Father hath are Mine.”11 So then thou hast heard the cause, why he is “blessed,” and why he is “Peter.” But why was he that which we shudder at, and are loth to repeat, why, but because it was of thine own? “For thou savourest not the things which be of God, but those that be of men.”

  1. Let us, looking at ourselves in this member of the Church, distinguish what is of God, and what of ourselves. For then we shall not totter, then shall we be founded on the Rock, shall be fixed and firm against the winds, and storms, and streams, the temptations, I mean, of this present world. Yet see this Peter, who was then our figure; now he trusts, and now he totters; now he confesses the Undying, and now he fears test He should die. Wherefore? because the Church of Christ hath both strong and weak ones; and cannot be without either strong or weak; whence the Apostle Paul says, “Now we that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.”12 In that Peter said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” he represents the strong: but in that he totters, and would not that Christ should suffer, in fearing death for Him, and not acknowledging the Life, he represents the weak ones of the Church. In that one Apostle then, that is, Peter, in the order of Apostles first and chiefest, in whom the Church was figured, both sorts were to be represented, that is, both the strong and weak; because the Church doth not exist without them both.
  2. And hence also is that which was just now read, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.”13 For I cannot do this in myself, but in Thee. He acknowledged what he had of himself, and what of Him, by whose will he believed that he could do that, which no human weakness could do. Therefore, “if it be Thou, bid me;” because when thou biddest, it will be done. What I cannot do by taking it upon myself,14 Thou canst do by bidding me. And the Lord said “Come.”15 And without any doubting, at the word of Him who bade him, at the presence of Him who sustained, at the presence of Him who guided him, without any delay, Peter leaped down into the water, and began to walk. He was able to do what the Lord was doing, not in himself, but in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.”16 What no one can do in Paul, no one in Peter, no one in any other o f the Apostles, this can he do in the Lord. Therefore well said Paul by a wholesome despising of himself, and commending of Him; “Was Paul crucified for you, or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”17 So then, ye are not in me, but together with me; not under me, but under Him.
  3. Therefore Peter walked on the water by the bidding of the Lord, knowing that he could not have this power of himself. By faith he had strength to do what humanweakness could not do. These are the strong ones of the Church. Marc this, hear, understand, and act accordingly. For we must not deal with the strong on any other principle18 than this, that so they should become weak; but thus we must deal with the weak, that they may become strong. But the presuming on their own strength keeps many back from strength. No one will have strength from God, but he who feels himself weak of himself. “God setteth apart a spontaneous rain for His inheritance.”19 Why do you, who know what I was about to say, anticipate me? Letyour quickness be moderated, that the slowness of the rest may follow. This I said, and I say it again; hear it, receive it, and act on this principle. No one is made strong by God, but he who feels himself weak of his own self. And therefore a “spontaneous rain,” as the Psalm says, “spontaneous;” not of our deserts, but “spontaneous.” “A spontaneous rain” therefore “God setteth apart for his inheritance;” for “it was weak; but Thou hast perfected it.” Because Thou “hast set apart for it a spontaneous rain,” not looking to men’s deserts, but to Thine own grace and mercy. This inheritance then was weakened, and acknowledged its own weakness in itself, that it might be strong in Thee. It would not be strengthened, if it were not weak, that by Thee it might be “perfected” in Thee.
  4. See Paul a small portion of this inheritance, see him in weakness, who said, “I am not meet to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.” Why then art thou an Apostle? “By the grace of God I am what I am. I am not meet, but by the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul was “weak,” but Thou hast “perfected” him. But now because by “the grace of God he is what he is,” look what follows; “And His grace in me was not in vain, but I laboured more abundantly than they all.”20 Take heed lest thou lose by presumption what thou hast attained21 through weakness. This is well, very well; that “I am not meet to be called an Apostle. By His grace I am what I am, and His grace in me was not in vain:” all most excellent. But, “I labored more abundantly than they all;” thou hast begun, it would seem, to ascribe to thyself what a little before thou hadst given to God. Attend and follow on; “Yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” Well! thou weak one; thou shalt be exalted in exceedingstrength, seeing thou art not unthankful. Thou art the very same Paul, little in thyself;and great in the Lord. Thou art he who didst thrice beseech the Lord, that “the thorn of the flesh, the messenger of Satan, by whom thou wast buffeted, might be taken away from thee.”22 And what was said to thee? what didst thou hear when thou madest this petition? “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”23 For he was “weak,” but Thou didst “perfect” him.
  5. So Peter also said, “Bid me come unto Thee on the water.” I who dare this am but a man, but it is no man whom I beseech. Let the God-man bid, that man may be able to do what man cannot do. “Come,” said He. And He went down, and began to walk on the water; and Peter was able, because the Rock had bidden him. Lo, what Peter was in the Lord; what was he in himself? “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, I perish, save me.” When he24 looked for strength from the Lord, he had strength from the Lord; as a man he tottered, but he returned to the Lord. “If I said, my foot hath slipped”25 (they are the words of a Psalm, the notes of a holy song; and if we acknowledge them they are our words too; yea, if we will, they are ours also). “If I said my foot hath slipped.” How slipped, except because it was mine own. And what follows? “Thy mercy, Lord,helped me.” Not mine own strength, but Thy mercy. For will God forsake him as he totters, whom He heard when calling upon Him? Where then is that, “Who hath called upon God, and hath been forsaken by Him?”26 where again is that, “Whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord, shall be delivered.”27 Immediately reaching forth the help of His right hand, He lifted him up as he was sinking, and rebuked his distrust; “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Once thou didst trust in Me, hast thou now doubted of Me?
  6. Well, brethren, my sermon must be ended. Consider the world to be the sea; the wind is boisterous, and there is a mighty tempest. Each man’s peculiar lust is his tempest. Thou dost love God; thou walkest upon the sea, and under thy feet is the swelling of the world. Thou dost love the world, it will swallow thee up. It skilleth onl how to devour its lovers, not to carry them. But when thy heart is tossed about by lust, in order that thou mayest get the better of thy lust, call upon the Divinity of Christ. Think ye that the wind is then contrary, when there is this life’s adversity? For so when there are wars, when there is tumult, when there is famine, when there is pestilence, when even to every individual man his private calamity arriveth, then the wind is thought to be contrary, then it is thought that God must be called upon. But when the world wears her smile of temporal happiness, it is as if there were nocontrary wind. But do not ask upon this matter the tranquil state of the times: ask only your own lust. See if there be tranquillity within thee: see if there be no inner wind which overturns thee; see to this. There needs great virtue to struggle with happiness, lest this very happiness allure, corrupt, and overthrow thee. There needs, I say, great virtue to struggle with happiness, and great happiness not to be overcome by happiness. Learn then to tread upon the world; remember to trust in Christ. And “if thy foot have slipped;” if thou totter, if some things there are which thou canst not overcome, if thou begin to sink, say, “Lord, I perish, save me.” Say, “I perish,” that thou perish not. For He only can deliver thee from the death of the body, who died in the body for thee. Let us turn to the Lord, etc.

1 (Mt 14,25 
2 (Mt 16,17 etc.
3 Vide Sermon cclxx. 2, and ccxcv. 1.
4 (1Co 1,12 
5 (1Co 1,13 
6 Apostolatus principatum.
7 (Mt 16,22 
8 (Mt 16,23 
9 (Ps 82,6-7.
10 (Mt 16,17 
11 (Jn 16,15).
12 (Rm 15,1 
13 (Mt 14,28 
14 Praesumendo.
15 (Mt 14,29 
16 (Ep 5,8 
17 (1Co 1,13 
18 Alibi.
19 (Ps 67,10 Sept. (lxviii. 9, English version).
20 (1Co 15,9 etc.
21 Meruisti.
22 (2Co 12,7-8).
23 (2Co 12,9 
24 Praesumsit de Domino.
25 (Ps 94,18 
26 (Si 2,10 Sept.
27 (Jl 2,32

With the wish to pray Christ for not being overwhelmed by the waves of life and walking with him to his peace.
Don Franco

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Mgr Francesco Follo

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