9 August 2020 Homily for 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr. Bill Edebohls
The boat is an ancient Christian symbol. It is the Church tossed on the sea of disbelief, worldliness, and persecution, but finally reaching safe harbor with its cargo of the people of God.
Part of the imagery comes from the ark saving Noah's family during the Flood (1 Peter 3:20-21) and from Jesus protecting Peter's boat and the apostles on the stormy Sea of Galilee in the Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33 & Mark 4:35-41). It was also a great symbol during times of persecution when Christians needed to disguise the symbol of the cross, since the ship's mast forms a cross in many of its depictions.
We still call the part of the church building where the people of God sit the ‘Nave’ from the Latin word for boat ‘Navis’.
We all face storms throughout our lives – and we all need a boat that is a safe haven. Currently we are in the eye of a storm that will be talked about in a hundred years’ time. We are part of an epic historic storm that will be recalled and retold over and over for years to come. How we deal with the storm and the effort we put into creating a new world and a new humanity after the storm will be central to that story.
If the boat brings us through the storm but we disembark on the same shore from which we left, returning to life as normal, then we will have squandered the opportunities this pandemic has given us to create a renewed world and our relationship with it, a renewed humanity and our relationship with each other, a renewed Church and a People of God committed to Micah’s vision to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with God. A vison fulfilled in the life of Jesus. A vision we commit ourselves to in Baptism and every time we celebrate Eucharist.
If we don’t learn the lessons of the injustice of a casualized, insecure work force, the criminality of wage theft, the folly of denigrating trade unions and the rights and dignity due to workers;
If we don’t honour those who supply our essential services, those who care for the aged, nurse the sick, care for the disabled, stack our supermarket shelves, collect our garbage, produce our food and teach our children;
If we don’t reform a welfare system currently designed to lock many into lives of poverty and homelessness;
If we don’t make peace with our planet and the living world around us and learn to be good stewards of the creation God has given us;
If we don’t reverse the current pandemic of selfish, self-centred narcissism, and replace it with a genuine care for others and the common good;
If we don’t get on board with Pope Francis’ call to reform the Church so that it can be a beacon of light and truth to a broken world;
Then we will have endured this storm in vain, only to have arrived on the wrong shore. A journey wasted, a journey that will lead to a world that will make this current storm look like a kindergarten picnic.
We can endure the storm - and we can arrive safely on a different shore.
Our final hymn for this Mass, is in honour of St. Mary MacKillop whose feast was celebrated on Saturday. In Mary MacKillop we see a Christian disciple who withstood the storm. A woman of great courage and hope who, with tenacity, tackled the enormous forces that confronted her and when battling seemingly impossible circumstances, she experienced the saving help of Jesus which strengthened her in her mission to reform structures of oppression and inequality, pouring out her life in the service of others.
Like Mary MacKillop, and like St. Peter in today’s gospel, we stand in stormy seas. But like Mary and Peter, we can take the risk, step out in faith, and when it seems that we are drowning beneath the waves that engulf us, reach out for the hand of Christ and walk steadily on, facing with courage both the present and the future with the joy and confidence of the Gospel. Knowing that all things are possible. That we never give up or make excuses, but allow the faithfulness and example of our own lives: the
faithfulness and example of our own lives: the tenderness of our compassion and mercy; our commitment to justice; our witness to the Christian faith; to be a light to the world, a light to the Church, a light to our family and friends and all whose lives we touch.
Remembering all the time - we do not have to face the storms alone - for we are all in this boat together - and Christ is at the helm.
And he is leading us – not back to the old normal – but to a world renewed – a different shore. Take the risk – get on board the boat – and listen, in the silence, to the still small voice – “Courage – do not be afraid - it is I.”