Faith in life’s crises

by May Tam

The three readings of this Sunday's liturgy depict one common problem which Elijah, Paul and the disciples experienced, namely, crises in life.

In the First Reading, Elijah was fleeing for his life from the wicked Jezebel's threat. He was so discouraged of all he had done for the Lord that he prayed for death (rf 1 Kgs 19:1-4). In Paul's case, his “great sorrow and constant anguish” is not about his own life but of his fellow Jews whose resistance to accept Jesus as the Messiah jeopardized their salvation (Rom 9:2). But he is in no lesser pain than Elijah, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh” (Rom 9:3). As for Jesus' disciples, needless to say, their lives were at stake, battered by the storm and were helpless in the midst of it.

We, too, may have similar crises in life. Like Elijah, we may face threats, persecutions and trials of all kinds. We may be depressed and angry like him. We may be like Paul, having anguish and frustration over our families and friends, whose stubbornness or skepticism impede them to believe the one true God. We may be the disciples, struggling in difficult situations, tossing in the tempest of our daily lives, feeling helpless and doubtful. At times, we may be all of them simultaneously.

But today's readings also give us a clue of how to live out these crises, that is, with faith. This faith is not a personal optimistic imagination, a created false hope or an escape route from reality. It is based on a relationship which stemmed from the intimacy with someone whom we trust. Elijah was hopeless and at his weakest moment when God gave him strength by providing him food that can last for forty days and forty nights (rf 1 Kgs 19:5-8). Just as one would expect God using His power to punish the Israelites who had “forsaken [His] covenant, torn down [His] altars and put [His] prophets to the sword.”, God presented Himself in a tiny whispering sound and gave Elijah another mission (1 Kgs 19:14-18).

And Paul, despite being continuously assailed by the Jews throughout his mission, his zeal and faith in God carried him even further to become the Apostle of the Gentiles, turning Christianity into a worldwide religion. Throughout his hardships, he put his trust in God and said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us . . . we know that all things work out for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. (Rom 8:18, 28).

In Elijah and Paul, God shows He is in control of all things. He has plans for everyone and does according to His will and time. In the incident of the storm, apart from the miracle of walking on water and calming the wind, Jesus also shows that God has the power to save. Jesus' rebuke to Peter of his little faith is also meant for the rest of the disciples and implicitly a demand for them to have more faith in Him. He is also questioning us in our own wind-tossed times. Would His reassuring words, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” be enough for us? Could we completely devote our attention to Jesus and not be distracted no matter what happen around us? And when by chance, we swerve in our faith, would we immediately do like Peter, crying aloud, “Lord, save me!”?