Fr. Manny Flores, SJ
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2017
What we learn from St Peter
Storms are normal and natural.
In our guilt we sometimes think that poverty, sickness, failures in business or relationships and other storms in life are a punishment for our sins. This is not true. Storms are part of normal existence that God allows in the natural flow of life. God allows His sun to shine on both the good and the bad. Storms come into the lives of both the good and the bad as well.
Jesus sees our struggles in the storm.
The north shore of the sea of Galilee where Jesus was praying is mountainous and significantly higher. A biblical scholar speculates that in the April moonlight, Jesus could see the apostles’ boat buffeted by the storm. Jesus was watching them and was concerned about them. Jesus is with us through our storms.
Feel the fear, but cling to Jesus
Peter had his strengths, among which is a loving heart that motivated much of what he did. He had a number of defects however, among which are his impulsiveness and fearfulness. Fear is natural, instinctive and often beyond our control. But fear can become dangerous when it is excessive so that it clouds our judgement leading us to many wrong decisions.
The great saving quality of Peter is that however intense his weakness, or guilt, or fear may be, in the end, he always clung to Jesus, who rescued him from drowning. We may not always be able to get rid of our fear. But like Peter we can always decide to cling to Jesus.
Feel the fear, but cling to Jesus!
What we learn from Yolanda
God is not always a rescuer
Peter was rescued by Jesus, but sadly, the people of Samar and Leyte were not. That night of Nov 2, 2013, despite their prayers they were hit by the strongest storm ever recorded packing winds of 315 kph smashing the typhoon monitoring doppler radar in Samar. In all, 6,329 people died and 1,074 are still missing. My father is from Tacloban, Leyte, two of my first cousins died that night when their concrete house was smashed by 20 foot waves.
We may not understand why God did not rescue us
Two years later in 2015, Hurricane Patricia with 345 kph winds overtakes Yolanda as the strongest storm ever. It hits Mexico, Nicaragua and Texas but kills only 13 people.
Why did God allow 570 times more people to die in Leyte and so few than in the Americas.
Are they that much more sinful? God is loving, powerful and wise. Why did He not rescue us?
But God is always a redeemer
Nothing can fully console the loss felt by the victims of Yolanda. How do you explain to a man who lost his wife and every one of his 5 children why God allowed this?
But like the death of His own Son whom He did not rescue from the cross, God redeems. He transforms our defeat to victory, our sorrow to joy, our death to life, even evil to good.
Let me mention some examples. Our relatives in the US who hardly ever visited Leyte anymore sent thousands of dollars in aid after the typhoon. After that, for 4 years now, they consistently send money to help more than 20 children with their schooling. They now visit Leyte far more often than before. I myself now find myself visiting Tacloban almost every year.
But what most puzzles me is that even if God did not rescue them like he did Peter, they now believe even more intensely, in His love, power and wisdom.
A sign of this real growth in faith among my relatives is that we seem to be closer to each other, treating each other with greater reverence and kindness than before. We seem to have a deeper sense of the preciousness of life and of persons beyond the material.
God did not rescue them but He did something greater. I see in the newness of their living and loving, the reality of the redeeming power of the cross.
God does not always rescue, but He always redeems.
Father Manny, thank you for reminding us to always open ourselves to the plans of God. Indeed, His ways are not our ways but one thing is for sure, God will never abandon us, He will be at our side all the time.
*just a little correction it should be doppler radar, thanks 🙂