Faith – Like Love – Is An Encounter

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XIX-A, 13 August 2017
1Kings 19:9,11-13//Romans 9:1-5//Matthew 14:22-33

An encounter is an “unexpected meeting” that may be brief but leaves a deep, lasting impression on the persons involved. It can be a life-changing event that leads to deeper faith and love. Sometimes after an encounter with somebody, we slowly feel drawn to her/him. As we get closer, we then develop some feelings that mature into love while at the same time, our faith grows deeper too. The more we believe a person, the more we love her/him. It is the same with our experience of love and faith in God. Deep in our hearts we know we have encountered Him in very personal ways that is why we believe in Him. Though the disciples encountered Jesus in the most unusual way in our Gospel today, there are three instances when we encounter God in the same manner that deepened our faith in Him.

After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray… Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch
of the night, Jesus came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I;
do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”(Mt.14:22-30)

First, we encounter God unexpectedly right in the middle of a storm in our lives. We always have that faith in Him but it is only during a close encounter with Him in a storm do we realize how little faith we have like St. Peter. Usually we feel our faith in Him is strong enough that we dare to face life’s many challenges head on, professing “Kaya natin ito…Bahala si Lord!” But right after we have taken that plunge or leap of faith, doubts seep into us as we experience the storm’s violent winds and giant waves that we sink in fear like St. Peter. Due to the brevity of our many encounters with Jesus, our faith in Him does not become rock solid right away that we go through a situation of “half-sure, half-doubtful” like St. Peter. The Lord knows very well our situation and that is why, He allows storms to happen in our lives. He sends us to go ahead of Him into the sea like what He did to His disciples so that our faith may be tested to grow. All saints after St. Peter experienced the same thing. What matters is we keep the faith like St. Peter, crying out to Jesus with “Lord, save me!” Hold on to that faith in Jesus for He comes closest to us in the midst of every trial and suffering. This is the reason why Crosses adorn our church altars so that we may always remember that Christ is present right where we are in agony and pain.

This leads us to our second point of faith as an encounter with God that is always in silence. Recall the crucifixion and death of Jesus when darkness enveloped the whole surroundings, when everything was in silence as if Jesus was alone and abandoned. On the contrary, it was during that darkest moment when the Father and the Son were closest with each other in total silence. In the same manner, we encounter God most in the silence of our darkest nights like Elijah in the first reading. Elijah had fled to Mt. Horeb (Sinai) to hide from soldiers sent to kill him by the evil Queen Jezebel. Again, there is the presence of sufferings and fears, but God came to Elijah in silence:“After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”(1Kgs.19:12-13)

We miss God and others in many encounters because we are blinded by our own selves and ideas of who they really are.
We love dramas in life, especially with God always believing He comes only in great spectacles or “palabas” of thunder and lightning or spellbinding miracles. We cannot control God – He is totally Other and unpredictable that is why He is God! The focus of faith is God, not our selves like the disciples who had mistaken Jesus for a ghost when He came walking on water toward them. The disciples were so sure of themselves that they have left Jesus behind by the shore of the lake that they could not believe He was walking on water. How funny that as we cry “Lord, Lord!” we also keep our eyes closed and miss Jesus.

And because Jesus silently comes to us in unexpected ways, we encounter Him thirdly among the most ordinary people we take for granted like our family and community. That imagery of the disciples’ boat being tossed by a storm at the lake is seen as the Church beset with so many challenges and trials from within and outside. Our faith – like love – in God grows only in a context of a community like the Church and the family. There can be no faith without others. Maybe, if the other disciples have accompanied St. Peter in walking toward Jesus on water, he could have mustered enough courage and strength to go on than sank in fear. The most faithful persons are the most loving ones because they are sensitive with the people around them, like their loved ones as well as the poor and needy. This is what St. Paul is telling us in the second reading that although we have many differences with others in terms of beliefs like the Jews, we are all brothers and sisters loved by the Father. May we be an encounter of faith in Jesus with others especially those going through storms in life. Be blessed!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan