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Saturday, 12 August 2023 17:07

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - 2023

Fr Yon Wiryono SVD 150Dear brothers and sisters,

It’s been really amazing to witness a million and half young people from all over the world gather in Lisbon, Portugal for World Youth Day 2023. Even though I’m not there physically, and I have never been to one, I can feel the enthusiasm, the festive spirit of the young Church, the youthful energy and expression of faith, the unique love of Jesus, and the sense of oneness amongst our young people, from every nation, culture and language, united as one. It really provides a beautiful image of our Church, young and universal.

Jesus walks on water 550 TwitterTo this young Church, in his homily for the closing Mass of World Youth Day in Lisbon, Pope Francis said: “Let’s all repeat this phrase in our hearts: “Don’t be afraid”. Jesus knows the hearts of each one of you, the success and the failures, he knows your hearts. And today He tells you: here in Lisbon, for this world youth day, don’t be afraid!” That was Jesus’ message to Peter, James and John after witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus, calling them to go down from the mountain, go back to mission with Jesus, with renewed and unshakable faith after encountering the divinity of Christ Jesus.

This Sunday, it is the same message from Jesus that we continue to reflect on: Courage! It is I, do not be afraid. It is addressed to Peter who takes the challenge to walk on water.

Perhaps, one of the most exciting stories in the Gospel is about Jesus walking on water. Something that always provokes me from this story is the fact that Jesus is encountered outside the boat. If we take the image of the boat as the Church, and the sea with its storm is the world, the fact that Jesus is in the sea and stormy water is very provoking. It is provoking because Jesus is not to be found on the boat, but he is calling Peter to come to the sea, come to the world. It is a calling to take risk and at the same time have faith to be able to walk on water.

We know that the Church exists in and for the world. We are meant to be in and for the world. We are meant to go out there, and encounter Jesus in the world. If we are too busy doing our own things on the boat, within the wall of our Church, well, this message is for us.

In Australia, during this time, we are cheering on our Matildas Soccer team in the Women’s Soccer World Cup on our home soil. Not long ago, Pope Francis used the image of playing soccer in his address to priests. He said: “Priests must play soccer, not preach dogma”. What he means is that he prefers priests who going out there, playing soccer, meeting and encountering people where they are at, and not busy doing our business inside the Church, keeping the dogma or making sure everyone is following the dogma of the Church.

Well, again, the image of Peter, taking risk, trying to reach out to Jesus in the stormy sea is supposed to be the model for the leaders in our Church to take risk, walking on the water, reaching out to the world. Too often we spend too much time in the boat, in the comfortable shelter place. We need to go out and to reach out. Here is the great message: Jesus can also be found in the boat but only when we are ready to leave the shelter of the boat to find him in the world.

Perhaps, why we are hesitant to go to the world is because we are trapped by our own illusion. It was in the mind of the disciples when they thought it was not Jesus walking on the water, but a ghost. Ghost is the image of our own illusion that the world is too dangerous and scary for us. The world will corrupt us. The secularised world will threaten our faith. We could lose our faith if we are too much involving in the world. These are our illusions. Once again, if we are part of this group, imprisoned and blinded by our own illusions, Jesus is inviting us today: Courage, It is I, do not be afraid!!

However, we also acknowledge that we are all vulnerable and living in a vulnerable world. We learn the lesson that our vulnerability allows God to reach into our lives and touch us. We are all imperfect, but Jesus always gives us the courage to walk on the water. Many people can walk on the water by their faith.

We know for sure that the world and its temptations could really challenge our life and faith. We can’t deny that there’s a big storm out there in the world that can really shake our faith. Nevertheless, we know for sure that when the disciples need Jesus, Jesus comes to help them. Here is the great truth: wherever Jesus Christ is, the wildest storm becomes a calm. If we find ourselves struggling in the midst of the stormy sea of our lives, we know that no one struggles alone, for Jesus comes to us across the storms of life, with hand stretched out to save, and with his calm clear voice bidding us to take heart and have no fear.