June 29, 2020
July 1, 2020

Homily for 30 June 2020, Tuesday of the 13th Week in Ordinary Time, Mat. 8:23-27

“Indeed, the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants, the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
In ancient Israel, before the prophets were called “messengers” or “spokes-persons”, they were first called “seers” or “visionaries”. (See 1 Samuel 9:9) They were regarded as people who had a special gift of seeing what other people couldn’t see, or of hearing what other people couldn’t hear.
A good example was the prophet Micaiah who saw a vision of God having a conference with his council of angels and calling for a volunteer among them to put lying words in the mouth of a false prophet in order to deceive the king. (See 1 Kings 22) Another example is the prophet Samuel. At a very young age, we are told that he could hear God, whom his old guardian Eli could not hear. Remember that story of the little boy running to the old man in the middle of the night and saying, “Here I am, did you call me?” How his old guardian realized that maybe, God was talking to this boy. Remember how he taught the boy to say, whenever he heard the voice, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening?” (See 1 Sam 3)
The prophet’s job was mainly to proclaim what he could see and hear from God, so that they could follow the right path and not get lost on the way. It must have been a lonely job for the prophet to know God’s will for Israel while all others were totally clueless about it. This is the feeling that I get whenever I read the oracles of the prophet Amos. I could feel the pressure on him. In our first reading today, he says, “The Lion roars who will not be afraid? The Lord speaks, who will not prophesy?”
Sometimes, the prophet Jeremiah speaks this way too. In fact, there were times when he felt very depressed about getting into trouble whenever he opened his mouth, whenever he dared to say what God made him see and hear. He got so stressed out he swore never to open his mouth again to speak for God. But then he laments and says, “But when I keep quiet, I could feel your word burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones, and I cannot endure it!” (Jer 20:9
If God’s Word could have such an immense impact on the prophets, imagine what it was like for the disciples to meet the Word Made Flesh, in person?
Today’s Gospel was one of those moments when the disciples were too amazed about Jesus they found themselves asking, “What sort of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”
Before I proceed, let me make one thing clear. The evangelists were already looking back when they wrote their gospels. In English, we would say, “They wrote at hindsight.” Meaning, they were not reporters who were chronicling things while they were actually taking place. I don’t think there was anyone among them in that boat who had a pen and a writing pad in his hand and recording what was happening.
It was not until much later that they looked back and said to themselves and to one another, “Wow, the man who was with us, whom we followed all those years from Galilee to Jerusalem, he was not just an angel in disguise. He was God with us! How could we not have known? Didn’t we hear and see the wonderful things that he was saying and doing? We were with him. We followed him because we admired him as a teacher, as a good man, as a human being like us. Now we realize why, every now and then he would do some things that amazed us and made our jaws drop, and we asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Is he a magician? A sorcerer? A trickster?’” Some people went to the extent of accusing him to be an agent of Beelzebull.
Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf. Not just in the literal or physical sense but also in the spiritual sense. He taught them to perceive God’s presence, to see God at work, God’s actions in history. He was giving them a different kind of vision, a different sort of hearing. We call it FAITH. And whenever they were too dumb to perceive or understand, he would rebuke them. Like in today’s Gospel, he says, “Oh you of little faith!”
He introduced to them a different notion of God. Not a distant God, but a God who was near, who was very much involved in their day to day affairs.
More and more, I realize now why Jesus didn’t like the idea of a distant God. It made some people complacent and abusive; it made them lose a sense of stewardship and accountability. To others, it reinforced a sense of insecurity. It made them fearful and anxious. Sometimes it made them feel abandoned and say, “Where is God? Why has he forsaken us? Has God abandoned us?”
What does it mean to be a believer? It is not about memorizing doctrines or just following rules and regulations. It is rather about seeing and hearing, it is about perceiving God’s presence, God’s action in history. It is about looking at reality not just with physical eyes. It is about looking at the world and seeing a whole new world in the making, God’s work in progress.
There is a Saint, whose icon or image, I believe is misunderstood. She is very popular in Italy and an operatic song has been immortalized in her honor: Santa Lucia. She is portrayed with a plate on one hand, and two eyeballs on the plate. She extends her hand and offers a pair of eyes. Too bad, very often people do not know anymore how to appreciate icons, how to read the theological statement being communicated in a form of art. People with no imagination would take things literally and miss the point. Sometime we need poetry to be able rise to a different level of discourse.
Like, what is Paul McCartney trying to say when he sings, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these sunken eyes and learn to see, all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free.”
This ancient martyr Santa Lucia’s name means Light. She is telling us what made her bold and fearless in the face of persecution: the capacity to be enlightened by God, to see things with the eyes of faith, the new pair of eyes that she is offering the onlooker. The icon is an invitation to see as God sees through faith in Jesus Christ. This special sight we call faith is activated by prayer and discernment.
Even better than Paul McCartney’s Blackbird is the most popular ancient Christian hymn AMAZING GRACE. It is about the grace of amazement about God’s ways. It is to experience being lost at one moment and realize later that you have been found. No you didn’t find him; he found you. “I once was lost but now I’m found.” It is to be blind and now given new sight. “Was blind, but now I see.”
I am sure there have been many moments in your lives when you also had an AHA EXPERIENCE. Even before we actually see him rebuking the wind and calming the sea, let us already take comfort in that the Lord is with us in the boat. Let us not allow our vision to be blurred or darkened by grief and despair. Let his presence calm our fears and anxieties; let us take comfort in the thought that he is not far away. Yes, he is asleep because he wants us to discover his amazing grace of being able to sleep soundly, even in the midst of a passing storm.


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