In order to really understand the connection between the first reading and the Gospel, we need to understand a little bit of the back story…like why is Elijah in this cave? Well – he is being hunted down by Queen Jezebel’s men. He had had a sort-of dual with like 400 of the prophets of Baal and God had destroyed them all… Note to self: if you ever want to tick-off a queen, kill all of her prophets. Elijah is running for his life and hides out in this cave. As long as he stays in there, he’s safe… to step out of the cave, he risks being seen by Jezebel’s army. So keep that in mind as you listen to the first reading.
I want you to imagine where you are most comfortable. Maybe it’s a beach… maybe it’s on a boat on the lake… Maybe you’re picturing yourself in your Lazy-Boy or the couch with a TV remote in your hand and a bowl of ice cream sprinkled with chocolate chips. Ahhhh…sounds like heaven.
For some people, staying at home is most comfortable – for others, they have to stay busy all the time, so they’re most comfortable when they are working. We might work 40 years in the same job because it’s comfortable… because we know what’s expected of us.
Wherever you’re thinking of … That’s your comfort zone – where nothing out of the ordinary is required of us – we have all we need – and most importantly, there’s nothing to be afraid of… and nothing to be nervous about.
Elijah would have preferred to stay in his cave – I mean – stepping out could have cost his life.
Then there are the apostles in that boat. Why in the world were they in the middle of the lake during a storm? I mean, they were Fishermen… they would have recognized the signs that a storm was coming. Jesus is God so surely He KNEW there was a storm coming. Why not leave the boat on the shore where it’s safe? Maybe Jesus sent them out BECAUSE of the storm coming. If they had stayed at the shore, their boat could have been dashed against the rocks and broken apart. Jesus purposely pushed them out of their comfort zone of the shore in order to save them. But then he pushed one step further – as the apostles were being tossed about by the storm, the boat had become their new comfort zone – it was their safe place. To fall out of the boat in those waves would have been instant drowning. But Jesus wanted to move beyond even this new comfort zone, so He invited Peter to step out of the boat and walk to Him across the water. That’s an important point…Jesus invited Peter to come closer to him.
I’m not going to ask you to raise your hands - but I wonder – how many of us really WANT to see God? How many WANT to get closer to Jesus?
The trouble is, no matter where you are, you CANNOT get closer to Jesus by remaining where you are. Think about that a second – I might think I’m a pretty good Catholic – praying my rosary, going to Mass, and I’ve never killed anybody – at least on purpose… That could easily become my comfort zone. Even in our spiritual life, we get into a comfort zone and don’t push ourselves to grow any more. I’m “good enough” – no sense doing anything crazy like taking a step out of that comfort zone and actually FOLLOWING Jesus as a disciple!
What do you think – are YOU ready to leave your comfort zone? Let me make this real… what if I asked everybody to get up from the pew you’re in and move to a totally different spot? Most of us kinda get into a groove – sitting in the same spot every time at church – it’s our comfort zone: we know the people around us – and just to ask everyone to move to another seat would send a dozen people into cardiac arrest. What if I told you to find someone you don’t know and introduce yourself? Does that make you a little nervous? What if I asked you to invite your non-Catholic neighbors to come to the parish Social or Shoot coming up in October? What if I asked you to invite them to come to church with you? Are you nervous yet? What if I asked you to participate in a prayer vigil outside a Planned Parenthood? What about speaking up when the conversation at work turns ugly. Scary stuff! That’s just a glimpse of how scared Peter would have been to step out onto the water in that storm.
Trouble is – if you and I stay in our comfort zones, nothing changes. We cannot remain where we are and move closer to Christ. If you and I do nothing, the Church will continue to be buffeted by the storms. The world will not become more Christian if WE don’t live our faith… if we don’t speak out against injustice, if we don’t do something as simple as praying before meals even at a restaurant. The secular world is like a storm raging around us – threaten to destroy the Church. Jesus is in the middle of the storm, beckoning us to follow him… ready to make great things happen.
But in order to get closer to Jesus, we gotta step out of the boat.
Once there was a king who received a gift of two magnificent falcons. They were peregrine falcons, the most beautiful birds he had ever seen. He gave the precious birds to his head falconer to be trained.
Months passed, and one day the head falconer informed the king that though one of the falcons was flying majestically, soaring high in the sky, the other bird had not moved from its branch since the day it had arrived.
The king summoned healers and sorcerers from all the land to tend to the falcon, but no one could make the bird fly.
He presented the task to the member of his court, but the next day, the king saw through the palace window that the bird had still not moved from its perch.
Having tried everything else, the king thought to himself, “May be I need someone more familiar with the countryside to understand the nature of this problem.” So he cried out to his court, “Go and get a farmer.”
In the morning, the king was thrilled to see the falcon soaring high above the palace gardens. He said to his court, “Bring me the doer of this miracle.” The court quickly located the farmer, who came and stood before the king. The king asked him, “How did you make the falcon fly?”
With his head bowed, the farmer said to the king, “It was very easy, your highness. I simply cut the branch where the bird was sitting.” (story author unknown)