Papal Homilies

19th Sunday of Year A

Pope Francis

Abandoning Ourselves to God

9 August 2020 | Saint Peter’s Square

19th Sunday of Year A

This Gospel narrative is an invitation to abandon ourselves trustingly to God in every moment of our life, especially in the moment of trial and turmoil. When we have strong feelings of doubt and fear and we seem to be sinking, in life’s difficult moments where everything becomes dark, we must not be ashamed to cry out like Peter: “Lord, save me” (v. 30). To knock on God’s heart, on Jesus’s heart. “Lord, save me.” It is a beautiful prayer! We can repeat it many times. “Lord, save me.” And Jesus’s gesture, who immediately reaches out His hand and grasps that of His friend, should be contemplated at length: this is Jesus. Jesus does this. Jesus is the Father’s hand who never abandons us, the strong and faithful hand of the Father, who always and only wants what is good for us. God is not in the loud sound, God is not the hurricane, He is not in the fire, He is not in the earthquake – as the narrative about the Prophet Elijah also recalls today that says God is the light breeze – literally it says this: He is in the “ thread of melodious silence” – that never imposes itself, but asks to be heard (see 1 Kgs 19:11-13). Having faith means keeping your heart turned to God, to His love, to His Fatherly tenderness, amid the storm. Jesus wanted to teach this to Peter and the disciples, and also to us today. In dark moments, in sad moments He is well aware that our faith is weak –all of us are people of little faith, all of us, myself included, everyone – and that our faith is weak our journey can be troubled, hindered by adverse forces. But He is the Risen One! Let’s not forget this: He is the Lord who passed through death in order to lead us to safety. Even before we begin to seek Him, He is present beside us lifting us back up after our falls, He helps us grow in faith. Maybe in the dark, we cry out: “Lord, Lord!” thinking He is far away. And He says, “I am here.” Ah, He was with me! That is the Lord.

The boat at the mercy of the storm is the image of the Church, which in every age encounters headwinds, very harsh trials at times: we recall certain long and ferocious persecutions of the last century and even today in certain places. In situations like that, she may be tempted to think that God has abandoned her. But in reality it is precisely in those moments that the witness of faith, the witness of love, the witness of hope shines the most. It is the presence of the Risen Christ in His Church that gives the grace of witness unto martyrdom, from which buds new Christians and fruit of reconciliation and peace for the entire world.


Faith of Our Community

13 August 2017 | Saint Peter’s Square

19th Sunday of Year A

This Gospel narrative contains rich symbolism and makes us reflect on our faith, both as individuals and as an ecclesial community, also the faith of all of us who are here today in the Square. Does the community, this ecclesial community, have faith? How is the faith in each of us, and the faith of our community? The boat is the life of each one of us, but it is also the life of the Church. The wind against it represents difficulties and trials. Peter’s invocation — “Lord, bid me come to you!” — and his cry — “Lord, save me!” — are very similar to our desire to feel the Lord’s closeness, but also the fear and anguish that accompany the most difficult moments of our life and of our communities, marked by internal fragility and external difficulties.

At that moment, Jesus’ word of reassurance, which was like an outstretched rope to cling to in the face of the hostile and turbulent waters, was not enough for Peter. This is what can happen to us as well. When one does not cling to the Word of the Lord to feel secure, but consults horoscopes and fortune tellers, one begins to sink. This means that the faith is not very strong. Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith in the Lord and in his Word does not open a way for us where everything is easy and calm; it does not rescue us from life’s storms. Faith gives us the assurance of a Presence, the presence of Jesus who encourages us to overcome the existential tempests, the certainty of a hand that grabs hold of us so as to help us face the difficulties, pointing the way for us even when it is dark. Faith, in short, is not an escape route from life’s problems, but it sustains the journey and gives it meaning.

This episode offers a wonderful image of the reality of the Church throughout the ages: a boat that, as she makes the crossing, must also weather contrary winds and storms which threaten to capsize her. What saves her are not the courage and qualities of her men: the guarantee against shipwreck is faith in Christ and in his Word. This is the guarantee: faith in Jesus and in his Word. We are safe on this boat, despite our wretchedness and weaknesses, especially when we are kneeling and worshiping the Lord, like the disciples who, in the end, fell down before him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God!” (v. 33). How beautiful it is to say this to Jesus: “Truly you are the Son of God!”. Shall we say it together, all of us? “Truly you are the Son of God!”.


Faith of the Apostle Peter

10 August 2014 | Saint Peter’s Square

19th Sunday of Year A

This story is a beautiful icon of the faith of the Apostle Peter. In the voice of Jesus who tells him: “Come!”, he recognizes the echo of the first encounter on the shore of that very lake, and right away, once again, he leaves the boat and goes toward the Teacher. And he walks on the waters! The faithful and ready response to the Lord’s call always enables one to achieve extraordinary things. But Jesus himself told us that we are capable of performing miracles with our faith, faith in Him, faith in his word, faith in his voice. Peter however begins to sink the moment he looks away from Jesus and he allows himself to be overwhelmed by the hardships around him. But the Lord is always there, and when Peter calls him, Jesus saves him from danger. Peter’s character, with his passion and his weaknesses, can describe our faith: ever fragile and impoverished, anxious yet victorious, Christian faith walks to meet the Risen Lord, amid the world’s storms and dangers.

And the final scene is also very important. “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’!” (vv. 32-33). All the disciples are on the boat, united in the experience of weakness, of doubt, of fear and of “little faith”. But when Jesus climbs into that boat again, the weather suddenly changes: they all feel united in their faith in Him. All the little and frightened ones become great at the moment in which they fall on their knees and recognize the Son of God in their Teacher. How many times the same thing happens to us! Without Jesus, far from Jesus, we feel frightened and inadequate to the point of thinking we cannot succeed. Faith is lacking! But Jesus is always with us, hidden perhaps, but present and ready to support us.

This is an effective image of the Church: a boat which must brave the storms and sometimes seems on the point of capsizing. What saves her is not the skill and courage of her crew members, but faith which allows her to walk, even in the dark, amid hardships. Faith gives us the certainty of Jesus’ presence always beside us, of his hand which grasps us to pull us back from danger. We are all on this boat, and we feel secure here despite our limitations and our weaknesses. We are safe especially when we are ready to kneel and worship Jesus, the only Lord of our life. This is what our Mother, Our Lady always reminds us. We turn to her trustingly.


SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope Benedict XVI

Peter Walks on Water

7 August 2011 | Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo

19th Sunday of Year A

In this Sunday’s Gospel we find Jesus who, after withdrawing to the mountain, prays throughout the night. The Lord, having distanced himself from the people and the disciples, manifests his communion with the Father and the need to pray in solitude, far from the commotion of the world.

This distancing, however, must not be seen as a lack of interest in individuals or trust in the Apostles. On the contrary, Matthew recounts, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, “and go before him to the other side” (Mt 14:22), where he would see them again. In the meantime the boat “was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them” (v. 24). And so in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea” (v. 25); the disciples were terrified, mistaking him for a ghost and “cried out for fear” (v. 26). They did not recognize him, they did not realize that it was the Lord. 

Nonetheless Jesus reassured them: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (v. 27). This is an episode from which the Fathers of the Church drew a great wealth of meaning. The sea symbolizes this life and the instability of the visible world; the storm points to every kind of trial or difficulty that oppresses human beings. The boat, instead, represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the Apostles.

Jesus wanted to teach the disciples to bear life’s adversities courageously, trusting in God, in the One who revealed himself to the Prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb “in a still small voice” [the whispering of a gentle breeze] (1 Kings 19:12). 

The passage then continues with the action of the Apostle Peter, who, moved by an impulse of love for the Teacher, asks him to bid him to come to him, walking on the water. “But when he saw the wind [was strong], [Peter] was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Mt 14:30). 

St Augustine, imagining that he was addressing the Apostle, commented: the Lord “leaned down and took you by the hand. With your strength alone you cannot rise. Hold tight to the hand of the One who reaches down to you” (En. in Ps. 95, 7: PL36, 1233), and he did not say this to Peter alone but also to us. 

Peter walks on the water, not by his own effort but rather through divine grace in which he believes. And when he was smitten by doubt, when he no longer fixed his gaze on Jesus but was frightened by the gale, when he failed to put full trust in the Teacher’s words, it means that he was interiorly distancing himself from the Teacher and so risked sinking in the sea of life. 

So it is also for us: if we look only at ourselves we become dependent on the winds and can no longer pass through storms on the waters of life. The great thinker Romano Guardini wrote that the Lord “is always close, being at the root of our being. Yet we must experience our relationship with God between the poles of distance and closeness. By closeness we are strengthened, by distance we are put to the test” (Accettare se stessi, Brescia 1992, 71).

Dear friends, the experience of the Prophet Elijah who heard God passing and the troubled faith of the Apostle Peter enable us to understand that even before we seek the Lord or invoke him, it is he himself who comes to meet us, who lowers Heaven to stretch out his hand to us and raise us to his heights; all he expects of us is that we trust totally in him, that we really take hold of his hand.


SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope St. John Paul II

Have No Fear

8 August 1999

19th Sunday of Year A

1. In the Gospel passage presented to us in today’s liturgy, we once again listen to Jesus’ words to his terrified and fearful disciples: ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear’ (Mt 14:27). The Evangelist notes that encouraged by the Lord’s presence, “those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’ ” (ibid, 14:33). The Church makes her own this profession of faith in the Son of God, and renews it constantly as she spreads the Good News which he came to bring the people of all times and places. 

2. The Servant of God Paul VI, my venerable Predecessor, was also a tireless proclaimer and bold witness of Christ’s Gospel. On 6 August, 35 years ago now, he promulgated his first Encycical entitled Ecclesiam suam. Fourteen years later, also on the Feast of the Transfiguration and precisely here in Castel Gandolfo, he was called to contemplate the Lord’s face forever in the blessed homeland.

In Ecclesiam suam, this great Pontiff indicated the paths of an inspired ecclesial journey towards the third millennium. The first is a spiritual path and refers to the awareness the Church must have of herself to conform to the vocation entrusted to her by the Redeemer. The second is the moral path and concerns the authentic ascetic, practical and canonical renewal she needs to carry out her mission in the world. The third is the way of the apostolate. For the ecclesial community, the method of dialogue is becoming the way in which to work to bring the Lord’s comforting message of salvation everywhere.

3. How is it possible not to thank God for the gift of this prophetic teaching which has guided the journey of the Christian people in the past 35 years? With the Second Vatican Council, wisely led by Paul VI, the Church more closely examined her inmost nature and universal mission. With the constant support of the Holy Spirit, her faith has remained steadfast in these last decades of the century, marked by many lights, but also by numerous shadows, and she is now preparing confidently to cross the threshold of the next millennium.

Let us once again give thanks to the Lord for the fruitful apostolic ministry of the unforgettable Paul VI. At the same time, let us entrust to Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, the future prospects and missionary challenges that lie before us, so that she may guide the steps of all Christians, as she did those of the newborn Church.


Holy See Homily Notes

19th Sunday of Year A

Dicastery for the Clergy

Homily Notes

Theme of Readings

God Reveals Himself

God reveals himself to Elijah in the soft murmur of the breeze on Mount Horeb (first reading). Jesus Christ reveals himself to the disciples as the Son of God by mastering the rough waves of the sea and with his mysterious words. “It’s me! Don’t be afraid” (Gospel). On his part, Paul is very aware that God has revealed himself to the People of Israel. “To them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises” (Rom 9: 4). Elijah’s reaction is one of sacred fear before the presence of Yahweh. “He covered his face with his cloak” (1 Kings 19: 13). Peter’s response is one of doubt. “You have so little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14: 31). The response of the group of disciples is one of faith. “Truly, you are the Son of God” (Mt 14: 33). Paul knows full well that the People of Israel have not responded to God and have not been faithful to divine Revelation. Thus he feels great sorrow and unremitting agony in his heart (second reading). God’s Revelation and man’s response – here in summary is the message of the liturgy.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Doctrinal Messages

God reveals himself to men not through concepts but by means of symbolic action or an interpersonal relationship

After Elijah flees to Mount Carmel to avoid being killed by Jezebel (1 Kings 19: 1-3), God makes him cross the land of Palestine from north to south to Mount Horeb. On the mountain, in solitude and prayer, God reveals himself to Elijah. God had revealed himself to Moses as the Lord of the powers of nature in the midst of lighting, fire, and thunder (cf. Ex 19: 16-19). Centuries later and on the same mountain, he will reveal himself to Elijah in the murmur of a soft breeze, with the softness of a mother’s kiss.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Jesus Christ spent long hours in prayer and dialogue with the Father (cf. Mt 14: 23)

The disciples almost powerlessly fought the rough waves on Lake Tiberias. All of a sudden they see a human figure resembling Jesus coming towards them. They are frightened. They think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus takes advantage of this circumstance to reveal himself to them in his most intimate identity, by means of a symbolic gesture. Like Yahweh (cf. Job 9: 8; Ps 77: 20), he walks over the waves of the sea, thus showing that he is the lord of the sea and of nature. Like Yahweh (cf. Ex 3: 15), he reveals his divine name, “I am.” Jesus shows his divine power, but he especially reveals his divine sonship to the disciples.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Paul reminds us of the extraordinary prerogatives of God in relation to Israel

Paul reminds us of the extraordinary prerogatives of God in relation to Israel, underscoring that “To them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ” (Rom 9: 5). With the patriarchs the historic revelation of God begins. With Christ such revelation culminates and reaches its plenitude, and this mystery is fulfilled among the Chosen People. This is how God reveals himself to us as the faithful one par excellence, as the one who does not regret his choice or his promises. God’s covenant with Israel continues in spite of Israel’s infidelity. God’s Revelation is a dialogue with each person, and by its very nature requires an answer. Elijah responds with the obedience of faith (1 Kings 19: 15-18) so that belief in Yahweh would be preserved in the land. Peter responds with fear and doubt to a situation he caused, challenging the power of Jesus. The People of Israel responded by rejecting the Revelation of Jesus as Messiah and of his divine sonship. Finally, the disciples are the ones who gave the best and most exhaustive response; “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Our response to God’s Revelation

Our response to God’s Revelation, preserved and passed on to us by the Church, must be in the words of Vatican Council II, “The obedience of faith…. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God…, willingly assenting to the Revelation given by him” (DV 5).

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Pastoral Suggestions

To answer one’s interlocutor, one must know the content of their message or proposal

If the person of today wishes to give a responsible and mature answer to God’s Revelation, he must first of all know such a Revelation. It is rather evident that for a certain number of years there was a “doctrinal vacuum” in catechesis (perhaps still existing in some areas today). Thus the Revelation of God that the Church conveys to us is partially unknown, misknown or insufficiently known. There is a major formative task to be carried out in parishes, youth groups, and Church groups. It is a difficult but absolutely necessary task so that a strong conversion experience or moment of religious enthusiasm does not become disappointing or simply a temporary explosion of feelings. We cannot place enough emphasis on the pressing need for numerous and well formed catechists, catechists working with the faithful of all ages so that their response of faith may be genuine and mature.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

It is not enough to know God’s Revelation

The experience of past centuries and of contemporary times has taught us – and this is witnessed by this Sunday’s liturgy – that by virtue of his freedom, man can give very different responses, and in fact he does. There are those whose response is one of rejection, a lack of interest, or indifference. For others there is open hostility towards the Christian message. There are those who believe but in their own way, letting themselves be guided by subjective criteria. Others do believe but their faith has “holes or leaks,” and it is thus “impossible” for them to accept certain truths of the Catholic faith or morality. The real answer, the one we must seek for ourselves and for our parishioners, is the complete, sure, and responsible answer: the obedience of faith.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana