Can fear be useful in our lives?
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Times
1 Kings 19: 9, 11-13; Romans 9: 1-5; Matthew 14: 22-33
When was the last time you were fearful? What did it feel like? Did the feeling of fear turn into despair? Did the feeling cause you to fight, flee or freeze, become stuck? Fear is a natural feeling and it is often a warning to us that something is not right. Fear can also cause a person to get stuck afraid to act or do. Those who suffer with paranoia and anxiety know what it is like each day to live with fear each waking hour. Yet I know that many people can live with their fear and keep it in check and use various tools to cope all of which are an individual choice such as medication, mindfulness, therapy and at times if severe medication. The point of all this is that fear is a part of our life and needs to be processed in order for us to remain whole and healthy in mind, body and spirit.
Where we are fearful can we find the Divine in the fear? Does the Divine create these occurrences which cause us emotional pain and physical exhaustion? I believe the firs part of the answer is found in the first reading. Elijah comes out of the comfort of the cave and goes to the mountain. Mountain climbing can be a fearful experience, yet mountain tops are symbolic of the Divine meeting creation like a steeple of the church which points to the sky. When Elijah gets to the mountain seeking the Divine all-natural causes happen and I wonder what was going through his mind was he looking for the Divine in the spectacular like we sometimes do. Was he frightened when the wind, fire and earthquake occurred around him? All the natural bells and whistles came about yet the Divine was not in the spectacular but the breeze that almost was missed. The essence of the account is that the prophet was able to recognize the Divine because he was aware of the spirit before the experience. It was the prophet’s experiences of fear in the past and knowing the Divine in those occurrences that did not let the fear overtake him and trusted until the Divine came in the breeze . We like Elijah find the Divine in the breeze and know that the Divine is present with us when the natural disasters happen upon us suddenly or when we have to prepare for its arrival. The most important aspect is being a tune to the Spirit and not allowing fear, disappointment and discouragement to side track us and blind us as Peter in the gospel today.
In the gospel we could ask what was Peter afraid of he was with Jesus. Is Peter not like us. Even though we believe and have had experiences of the Lord we still get afraid. Yet like Peter even when we get fearful and turn our sight on our fear and loose sight of the spirit within us, we can still refocus and allow the spirit to redirect us and help us to recovery of our sight. It is belief and trust that can help us dispel the fear. Peter having that deep faith and trust did not allow his fear to drown him for he knew that the Lord would not let him drown.
The other figure in the story is Jesus. If we recall last week the disciples saw Jesus feed the crowd even after his cousin John the Baptist had been killed and he had no time to mourn. Today Jesus finally had a chance to go to the mountain the place of the spirit and maybe finally grieve and be with his Abba. Just as he enters communion with the Divine, he must have heard or sensed the anxiety of the disciples maybe even heard their cries for help. Maybe he felt frustrated and not wanting to rescue them again. Yet his love for those in pain and distress had him respond and go beyond his own pain for the sake of those in need. Jesus walks on the water and when questioned by the disciples and Peter he calls him forth. It is Peter who becomes fearful and overwhelmed as he walks on the water to be with Jesus. Jesus once again saves Peter from being swallowed up by his fear which caused him to become stiff and rigid and begin to sink. Jesus reaches out and Peter is saved.
The feelings of fear, frustration and disappointment are all normal it is what we do with these feelings which allow the experience to enhance our life or succumb to it and despair. The readings remind us the type of Divine we believe in the one who provides a cool breeze after the earthquake and fire and the one who lends a hand when we feel like we are drowning. The only criteria for us to experience the Divine is an open heart and mind to not allow our emotions to become obstacles to our living life for the Lord and others. The Divine calls us to deal with our emotions through therapy, medication, support and most importantly community for when we isolate and get stuck, we cannot know or feel the presence of the Divine. If you are feeling alone or isolated join us in prayer each Sunday and Wednesday evening at 8 PM share with us in our Saturday Vigil Mass become a part of a faith community for we cannot live this life and journey alone. Isolation leads to disconnection and we find ourselves turning in on our self and then we become depressed. The message today is you are not alone and there are people willing to pray and be with you and support you. Be not afraid the Lord and we are with you.
Let us pray for our self and those who suffer with their fearful emotions so that we will be able to feel our feelings and process them withe each other knowing that no thought or feeling can keep us from the Loving Presence of the Lord found within us and in community.