Sunday, August 13, 2017

Homily – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – PREPARES

1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

When we take our eyes off Jesus, we sink, we fail, we fall.
But when we keep our eyes on Jesus, we rise, we sail, we soar.  
This is the main point Jesus is making in this week’s Gospel message.  And it applies to everything in our lives if we just heed His words of encouragement: “take courage… do not be afraid.”
How many times have we passed up opportunities to serve because we don't think we can do it?
Perhaps these are opportunities to serve at work on some big project. Or serve in our family with caring for an ailing loved one. Or serve the Church by walking with and mentoring a family who has chosen life. 
If we focus on Jesus, “take courage… do not be afraid,” we might say “yes” more often, better hear God’s voice “whispering” in our lives, serve others more fully, and be the People of God he’s calling us to become.

           But are we brave enough to walk on these waters? 
There’s a new ministry in our Archdiocese and in our parish community in need of a few brave souls to hear Jesus’ call to "come," walk on rough waters, “take courage” and “do not be afraid.” 
The new ministry is called PREPARES and it was launched with last year’s Pastoral Letter “Who is my Neighbor?” This letter from the bishops calls on all people of faith not to take our eyes off the poor, not to take our eyes off Jesus. 
PREPARES offers pregnancy and parenting support to families who have chosen life.
I’m sure you’ve seen the baby crib in the sacristy of both Churches recently looking for needed supplies.
But even more than that, PREPARES needs a few courageous women, men and families to “’walk the journey’ with pregnant and parenting… families… who find themselves lacking a healthy support network.”1   
By stepping onto these stormy waters, you will walk with families, and be a mentor, helping to provide wrap-around services from the time of awareness of pregnancy to the child’s fifth birthday.
Of course, you will not do this alone.  You will be trained by PREPARES professionals on how to provide meaningful, professional and sustainable support to these vulnerable moms, dads and families who choose life, and help them nurture their children through pregnancy and early childhood. 
     Sound like a daunting task?  Sound like stormy waters too difficult to walk on?  Sound like something Jesus is calling you to do?
Sure, it’s easy to get too focused on the wind and the waves of such an endeavor, but I encourage you to “take courage… do not be afraid,” and do not take your eyes off Jesus.  His love is enough to help you serve others in this special way.
And remember, sometimes the Lord speaks in that “tiny whispering sound” in your heart.
The bishops of our state came up with this idea for PREPARES and it’s growing by leaps and bounds all over the state.
It’s starting to grow in our own parish community, but right now we need a few courageous volunteers to step forward and commit to be mentors for families and make a long-term commitment.
As one PREPARES organizer puts it beautifully, “We bring hope to life especially for those most in need. And part of what Christ gives to us is that hope we can then extend to others.”2
I met a woman recently experiencing homelessness living in a car with her one year old baby girl.
The woman is not on drugs, not abusing alcohol. She’s just living below the poverty line and unfortunately has no home for her and her baby right now.  She’s not the only one. There are many like her on the streets of Snohomish County. 
Would you be surprised if I told you she was Catholic and was confirmed in our parish?
This young woman is just trying to raise her baby girl as best she can under incredibly difficult circumstances.  
MercyWatch and Catholic Community Services are helping her find permanent shelter.
Perhaps you could help mentor this new mom?  And she’s a great mother, too.
St. Paul gives voice today to the sadness this mom feels about her situation. In today’s Letter to the Romans, Paul is talking about his despair about Jews who refuse to see Jesus as the Messiah.
His words remind us of “the sort of thing people say when they are in the depths of … suffering…. When you’re in that state, everything that happens, every word you hear, every sight you see is (colored) by the fact that something has gone desperately wrong.  You cannot forget it for a moment.”3
And so it is with this mother who needs our love and support.
PREPARES organizers have a goal we can all be a part of. They say: “We want the 300 Catholic parishes across the state to be open for families to walk in and say ‘I need help.’  And that they feel welcomed, and loved and not judged.  That’s the vision of this beautiful program.”4
There’s an ad for PREPARES in today’s bulletin with a contact number for coordinator Sheila Davis if you're hearing that “tiny whispering sound.” 
Maybe you know the popular song on Christian radio called Oceans by Hillsong United? I think it gets to the central message of today’s Gospel and the call of Jesus to build up the Body of Christ with life-giving programs such as PREPARES. 
Here’s a lyric from that song:

You called me out upon the water
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

And I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace
For I am yours and you are mine


      1 PREPARES video online:

      2 PREPARES video online: 

      3 Paul for Everyone – Romans: Part Two – N.T. Wright – page 3 and 4 

      4 PREPARES video online: