Homily - 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

I would like to talk to you about a famous race – a track race that happened way back in 1954.

His name was Roger Bannister – he was a student at Oxford University in England.  He was a track star, and he was so good that his coach thought he could be the very first person in history to break the 4 minute mile.

Roger was not that sure – but since his coach believe in him he was certainly going to give it his best effort.

On May 8th, 1954 – Roger woke up to a cold and windy morning, a  terrible day for running a race.  He called his parents and told them: “Stay home.  It’s a bad day and I won’t run fast.”  His parents came anyway.

There was just a very small crowd on hand for the race.  The runner lined up, the gun barked, and the rest is history.  At exactly 3 min. and 59 seconds, Roger crossed the finish line and became the first person in history to break the 4 minute mile.

There’s more to this story.   Just 19 days later, an Australian runner named John Landy, became the second man to break the 4 minute mile.  So this set the stage for an historic race between these two men.

A few months later the stage was set for this dream race in Canada.  John Landy led way right into the final stretch.  Then he did something that no racer should do.  He glanced over his should to see how far Bannister was behind him.

In that split second Roger shot past him and won the race.

The moral of this story – never take your eyes off the finish line.  Keep your eyes fixed on the goal.

In the Gospel today Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he looked down at the raging water, he became very afraid, and he started sinking.

Sometimes our life can become very fearful and anxious.  It can feel that we are really sinking down in the dark waters of fear, depression, anxiety whatever.  What are we to do?

First – “Lord save me.”   We are to do what Peter did.  He cried out to the Lord for help.  “Lord save me!”  And Jesus saved him.  Let us cry out daily to the Lord with heartfelt prayers and ask Jesus to save us.  Save us from our sins, from our selfishness and pettiness.


Second – Focus on Jesus alone.  Never, never take your eyes off Jesus.  He is our Savior – there is no other. If we take our eyes off Jesus we will start to sink, we will start to drown in our own self pity and sins. And we often take our eyes off Jesus when we get so wrapped up in our work, so fixated on a person who has hurt us be in control, so determined to control our own life and the lives of those around us.  

Our eyes can only go in one of two directions.  Either they go out and focus on Jesus in deep and daily prayer and Jesus in our neighbor in need, or they go inward and focus on our own selfish needs and desires, our own aches and pains, our own troubles and problems.  Then we start sinking.  I often think of people, young and old, taking “selfies.”  They seem to be always taking pictures of themselves, focusing on self. It is something like singing “How Great Thou Art” while looking in the mirror.  Then our own little world becomes fenced in on all four sides by me, me, me, me.

The Lord, thru Elijah the prophet, shows us where we can find him.

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter.
Then the LORD said to him,
"Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by."
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And in the Gospel today Jesus went off to the mountain to be alone and to be with His Father, to be in solitude and in quiet.

We too will find God in the quiet places of our heart if we take time to listen to him.  If we “quiet down” our sometimes hectic, busy and noisy life. 

“Be still, be still, and know that I am God.”  

Fr. Tom Hillenbrand, OSB