19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
1 Kgs 19: 9,11-13
“Man of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Many years ago, the company CEO sent the management team to a 4-day seminar by Anthony Robbins called ‘Unleash the Power Within’. Part of this seminar involved walking on hot coals. They were teaching us to “turn fear into power”; a symbolic experience to prove you can make it through anything, if you put your mind to it. Naturally, I was most intrigued and also very excited leading up to the event.
Here’s my experience. We were all psyched up –- plenty of people cheering us on, we were told to chant, “cool moss, cool moss!” as we walked across the hot coals. My turn came and my heart was literally jumping out of my chest. I took that first step, then second and third. It was amazing! My feet weren’t burning! But just for a split second, my mind questioned this. And that’s when I felt a little heat. I walked quickly across the bed of hot coals. I’d made it! I felt invincible — on top of the world! There is nothing I cannot do, if I put my mind to it. The lesson I took away from that experience is we can overcome any fears that were holding us back. “Once you start doing what you thought was impossible, you’ll conquer the other fires of your life with ease.”
Today, one can rationalise this ‘ability’ to science, specifically heat conduction and insulation. With the right preparation, a trained person can cross embers exceeding 538 degrees C. This is because coal is a lightweight carbon structure that’s a poor conductor of heat. It takes longer for heat to transfer from coal to human skin than it would from a good conductor, like a metal frying pan. Also, once the coal is patted down and spread out, we are walking on a flat surface and our feet do not dig into the hotter embers underneath. That’s why we are told to keep moving, so each step absorbs relatively little heat. Walking quickly limits your contact with each individual coal.
In today’s gospel reading, Peter challenged Jesus. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” At first Peter could, then his doubt made him shift his focus toward the storm, and he started to sink. Jesus rebuked him, put out his hand and held onto him. “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Like Peter, I doubted and felt the heat on my feet. While I can rationalise my coal walking experience to science..with Jesus & Peter walking on water –- that’s about faith; yours and mine. Jesus calls us to step out of our boats (of fear, of our comfort zones) to allow Him to conquer the fires that rage in our hearts. Fires that cause us to be paralyzed, preventing us from moving on, moving ahead, from growing, from achieving His vision for our lives.
As I reflect on today’s reading, I ask myself these questions:
• When do I find trusting in God the most difficult?
• Have I ever felt distant from God, only to feel his presence in a dramatic fashion later?
• How has the Lord been close to me recently? What happened? How did God reveal “his glory” to me, even in the tough times?
For me, I find my trust in God waning when things get tougher. When I fail to understand why certain events are happening in my life. I cling on to my prayers for that strength to take that one step but at times, I wonder if God hears me. Or if He does, He clearly is testing my patience! Sometimes, I feel that God had totally side-stepped me. I feel that perhaps He is too busy solving ‘life and death’ situations to bother about this lukewarm, half-dead, half-alive Catholic. Especially so in recent times during the ‘circuit breaker’ period (essentially a lockdown) here in Singapore. Many things were bubbling in me interiorly. And also a difficult matter at home stirred up all sorts of emotions; required me to make difficult choices. I questioned why the Lord would let something like that happen when I was just trying to heal from my battle wounds. I wondered if I was actually making any progress in my healing process.
As I reflect further, I realise that I failed to see that God has been with me all this while. It may not be in the flesh or in a dramatic fashion like when He appeared to His disciples, or when He was walking with Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus. I may still be feeling the pain of past wounds and broken friendships, but pain doesn’t mean I haven’t changed. If I keep measuring ‘the progress’ I have or haven’t made, I fail to see the gift of the present moment. If I keep focussing on the black dot on the vast white canvas, I have missed the many blessings in my life. If I keep focussing on the destination of this life journey, I would have missed the journey itself.
‘Why did you doubt?’
‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Lord, I believe in you. I believe you are good. I believe that I am secure in you; that I am hidden in you and no real harm can come to me with you as my rock and my salvation. I believe that you see me and you love me — that I am treasured in your sight. Help my unbelief. Help that head knowledge become heart knowledge, so that my actions reflect those truths and not the lies the enemy throws at me.
Thanksgiving: Jesus, I give thanks to you with all my heart. That even when I doubted You, you never let me drown in my unbelief.