Anguish of Heart
(Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 1 Kings 19:9-13; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33)
Before and after the episode recounted in the first reading—the wind, earthquake, fire, and gentle sound—the Lord asks Elijah, “Why are you here?” and both times Elijah answers: “I have been most zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant.”
St. Paul describes the anguish he is experiencing for his own people. Having experienced for himself Jesus as Messiah and Savior, he dearly desired to share his faith with all devout Jews. That is why, in his missionary journeys, he went first to the local synagogues to preach the Good News, but with little success.
At La Salette Mary described her anguish in these terms: “How long a time I have suffered for you!... However much you pray, however much you do, you will never be able to recompense the pains I have taken for you.”
Jesus expressed disappointment with Peter’s little faith. Many Catholics and Christians today are grieved, not so much by the little faith as by the seemingly total absence of faith of so many. It is a comfort to know that St. Paul and the Beautiful Lady knew that sorrow as well. We are not alone.
In the Responsorial Psalm we find encouragement.
I will hear what God proclaims;
the Lord — for he proclaims peace…
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
The Lord himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
How close this comes to the image Our Lady uses about the abundant harvests that will follow, ‘if they are converted.’ Her deeper purpose is to plant the seeds of peace and reconciliation, of truth and fidelity, of justice, which is a righteousness that includes but goes well beyond the requirements of commandments and laws. If these take root and produce fruit, the Lord’s benefits will follow.
Anguish of heart didn’t stop St. Paul or Our Lady from reaching out to their people. We needn’t let it stop us either. If for any reason we are unable to reach out in direct ways, we can always do so in prayer.