Sunday, August 11, 2013

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

   Today’s first and second readings are very similar. They both give an answer to the question: What is Faith?  In the first reading, taken from the Book of Wisdom, we are told that faith is the sure knowledge of the promises of God and of their eventual fulfillment. In the second reading, from the Letter to the Hebrews, we are told that faith is “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen”. Both readings point to the fact that faith is just the certainty of things we cannot see with our eyes, the certainty of spiritual realities, of the desire we have for justice, for the happiness we will feel when we meet our departed loved ones again, of heaven and eternal life.
   With all this talk about faith, it occurred to me that it is rather strange the Church decided to group these two readings with a Gospel which starts by Jesus proclaiming “Do not be afraid”. What does faith has to do with fear?  To answer this question we have to take a look at the context in which Jesus spoke these words.
    Today’s Gospel is taken from a section of Luke which is known as “the travel narratives”. It is called like this because these were stories of Jesus and his disciples as they traveled towards Jerusalem, to celebrate the Passover. The same Passover, in which Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified.
   The apostles sensed that something was going to happen the moment they arrived to the city. Perhaps he would reveal himself as the Messiah, perhaps we would use his divine power to defeat the Roman tyrants and establish the Kingdom of God.  Jesus, on the other hand, knew very well what was going to happen; He also knew the effect these events were going to have in the faith of his friends and followers. So in preparation for what was waiting in Jerusalem, the Lord gives a lesson about how to always be ready for Him to appear, and about how, regardless of what our situation is, we must keep our faith on Him and avoid fear, because fear is the great enemy of those who wait for His promises; faith gives us courage and consolation. Fear turns us inwards, to look inside of ourselves for strength that only God can provide.  Fear makes us forget that God is always, always in control, and that when we least expect it He sends his angels to help us.
Sketch Artist Depiction of "Mystery" Priest
   In the last few days, there is a news story been reported which, in my opinion gives a perfect example of today’s message. There is this young woman; her name is Katie Lentz, who was hit head-on by a drunk driver this past Sunday morning on an isolated highway in Missouri. She was seriously injured and trapped inside her car.  For close to 45 minutes the emergency personnel tried to pull her out of the wreckage but couldn't free her.  During this time, Katie which had multiple fractures in her body and must have been in an incredible amount of pain, prayed out loud. After an hour of struggle, the responders realized that to use the words of one firefighter “Katie was slipping way” and that the only chance they had to save her was by turning the car upside down, a move which could very likely, kill her. When they inform Katie about their very dangerous plan, instead of sinking into despair, she asked them if they would pray with her out loud. It was at this moment, eyewitnesses’ report that right out of nowhere a priest appeared, even though the road had been blocked off for two miles and they were in an isolated stretch of highway. The priest said that he will pray with her and anoint her with the oil of the sick.  Eyewitnesses tell that while this was happening, a sense of peace fell over Katie and the men trying to save her life. After the anointing the priest also blessed the rescuers and told them not to worry as they will now be able to release her, which in fact they were. When she was safely out of the car the rescuers tried to locate and thank the priest for what he had gone, but could not find him. To this day no one knows who this priest was. The archdiocese of Missouri has said that none of their priest was at the accident that day. The strangest thing about this story is this: in more than 80 pictures taken during the time this was going on, not one of these captured the image of this mysterious priest.
   Some people are calling this a miracle; they are saying this priest was just an angel in disguise. I think that it does not matter if this was an angel or just a priest from another diocese, on vacation out for stroll. The real miracle is this: at a moment in which many people would sink in despair and fear, the faithful prayer of a young woman in need was answered.
    My brothers and sisters faith is the great antidote against fear. Fear is the great enemy of the faithful. I pray that no one ever in this community of St Michael’s has to deal with a situation such as Katie Lentz experienced, but I also pray that if we ever find our faith tested, we remember Jesus words today: Do not be afraid. Trust in your faith, trust in the power of God’s consolation, and be open to his wonderful care and you too will be the witnesses of miracles. Amen!


Here are some links to the "Mystery" Priest story:

 Story 1, Story 2, Story 3

UPDATE: The Mystery Priest has stepped forward. Here is the link.


Victor said...

(((Trust in your faith, trust in the power of God’s consolation, and be open to his wonderful care and you too will be the witnesses of miracles. Amen!)))

You can say that again brother! :)

Please say a special prayer for this sometime Annoying Super Sinner