The Catholic Parish of Otaki and  Levin

Faith Communities of Otaki, Levin and Kuku


Homily for the 19th  Sunday in Ordinary Time

13 August 2017


If we are near certain wetlands at this time of the year we may catch sight of duck hunters with their dogs. One such avid duck hunter was in the market for a new bird-retrieving dog. His search ended when he found a dog that could actually walk on water to retrieve a duck. Shocked by his find, he was sure none of his friends would ever believe him. He decided to try to break the news to a friend of his, a pessimist by nature, and invited him to hunt with him and his new dog. As they waited by the shore, a flock of ducks flew by. They fired, and a duck fell. The dog responded and jumped into the water. The dog, however, did not sink but instead walked across the water to retrieve the bird, never getting more than his paws wet. The friend saw everything but did not say a single word. On the drive home the hunter asked his friend, ‘Did you notice anything unusual about my new dog?’ ‘I sure did,’ responded his friend. ‘He  can't swim!’


We have just heard one of the episodes in Jesus’ life which causes some people to be, like that duck shooter’s friend, in denial. They feel uncomfortable about Jesus doing things like walking on the water. It sounds too fantastic, too mediaeval, too extravagant a miracle!  And yet it follows immediately on from the extravagant feeding of the five thousand. There Jesus had fed the people in a lonely place, which recalled the feeding of the Israelites in the desert under Moses. In that miracle, Jesus had assumed the role of God, not of Moses, and now that divine identity is again confirmed.


Moses, by the power of God, had parted the waters so that the Israelites could pass over. Jesus here shows his complete mastery of the water by walking on it. It is another of those actions which bring unmistakable hints of divinity. In feeding the people on grass, by the waters of the lake, he had assumed the role of the Shepherd-God in Psalm 23 who had fed his people in green pastures by still waters.


Now, walking on turbulent water buffeted by a strong wind, his actions recall many psalms and sayings of the prophets in which human beings are in troubled waters and are rescued from them by the hand of the Lord.

Peter goes out to the Lord and sinks through lack of faith. His fear reflects the fear of all the disciples in the boat. Jesus tells them not to be afraid, ‘it is I’.  Here Jesus is using a form of the divine name revealed to Moses in the burning bush – I am who I am. Jesus stretches out his hand to Peter in words which recall those of God in the prophet Isaiah:  ‘do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand’.

This is why the disciples hail Jesus as Son of God. The miracle is a statement of Jesus’ divine identity and yet in the opinion of many it was narrated by St Matthew to encourage the Church, which often seems to progress through time like a ship on troubled waters. It is a miracle which should be recalled by all people who prefer panic to constructive action. It should be remembered by all those who think the Church is sinking. It should certainly be remembered by those who are far more concerned with the end of the world than with the state of their souls. I was reminded of this at our recent Parish Council meeting where discussion occurred around some of our youth who sometimes attend churches of other traditions with their friends. Some are asking: why don’t we hear the same talk in our Catholic church about the end of the world and the earthquakes and wars that are going to prefigure it? Well, our gospel today provides one response; another might centre on understanding the true context and meaning of the scriptures!


The Lord calls us, as he called Peter, across the water, the troubled waters of life and faith and difficulty. Our now risen Lord tells us: do not be afraid, which I guess might be as difficult a commandment to keep as the commandment to love!


Perhaps we too, like Peter, lack faith. If we showed more love and less fear, we would worry less about the storms of life and faith. For we have the Lord’s word that, after crossing the water, after trusting that God has everything in hand, we come by God’s wonderful grace to the harbour we call heaven, eternal life.

Homily for Transfiguration
6th August 2017 - Transfiguration.docx (14.17KB)
Homily for Transfiguration
6th August 2017 - Transfiguration.docx




























Please configure this download widget