04Jul 04 July. Tuesday, Week 13

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal
(We might also pray for peace and good order in the United States of America, on their national Independence Day.)

1st Reading: Genesis 19:15-29

Before destroying decadent Sodom and Gomorrah, God saved Lot and his family for Abraham’s sake

When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.” But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. When they had brought them outside, they said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.” And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; your servant has found favour with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die. Look, that city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there, is it not a little one?, an my life will be saved!” He said to him, “Very well, I grant you this favour too, and will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there, for I can do nothing until you arrive there.” Therefore the city was called Zoar. The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar.

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord; and he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the Plain and saw the smoke of the land going up like the smoke of a furnace. So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain, God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew he cities in which Lot had settled.

Gospel: Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus calms the storm on the lake; the apostles see him in a completely new light

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”


Saved from the Storm

In face of natural disasters, such as earthquake and volcanic eruptions at Sodom and Gomorrah or a fierce storm on the Lake of Galilee, God saves those who trust in him and those for whom others pray. By Abraham’s prayer Lot, his wife and two daughters are led to safety by an angel; the disciples in the boat are amazed at Jesus’ power over the wind and the waves. But if people persist in sinful behaviour, unwilling to give up living off others’ inhuman working conditions, then prophets like Amos are impelled by God to cry out in the name of the poor.

If people cannot disentangle themselves from base sexual practices, not even the prayer of someone like Abraham can save them and they are swallowed up in a fiery grave, which only Lot and his family managed to escape. Events like storms at sea, earthquakes, and natural catastrophe are closely linked to the story of salvation for all of us. In face of such natural calamities we need not be passive victims but can be saved by the strength of faith and prayer.

This faith and prayer must have a steady quality, not “on again, off again.” Lot’s hesitation almost cost him and his family their lives. The entire family had to be dragged out of the sinful place and led to safety. On the way, Lot’s wife looked back and she was turned into a pillar of salt. This story probably comes from a weird salty column at the southwestern edge of the Dead Sea. From one angle it resembles a person standing in an awkward position and gazing perpetually at the desolate landscape of this area.

Our faith in divine providence and our prayerful disposition enables us to rise above storms and disturbances and not be swept up into utter panic. The violent storm continues even after the disciples waken Jesus. He asks, “Where is your courage?” The storm rages on but this time they turn anew to Jesus, no longer in frantic fear but in wondering trust. Then he tells the winds and the sea to be calm. Whoever “wakes up” the presence of Jesus in their hearts, even if in desperation, and stays with him long enough, will gain a new self-assurance from his presence, and inner peace.

Coping with sudden crisis

The gospel suggests that the onset of this particular storm on the Sea of Galilee was sudden: “without warning a storm broke over the lake.” We know from experience that our own personal circumstances can change without warning. We can suddenly find ourselves in the midst of some raging personal storm. One day all is well; the next we are in crisis. To that extent the gospel today speaks to each one’s personal experience.

Matthew’s way of telling the story of the storm links it more closely to the experience of the people of his local church than Mark’s way of telling the same story. The cry of the disciples, “Save us, Lord, we are going down” is very much the cry of those for whom Matthew was writing his gospel. It is the cry of us all at some time in our lives. The gospel reassures us that the Lord will respond to such a cry; our prayer for help in vulnerable times will not go unanswered. The Lord is stronger than the storm that threatens, and in turning towards the Lord, we will draw from his strength. {MH}

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

Elizabeth (1271 – 1336) born into the royal house of Aragon, Spain, as the daughter of Infante Peter (later King King Peter III). She showed great fervour for her faith, said the Divine Office daily, fasted and did other penances. Elizabeth could count several members of her family who were already venerated as saints, most notably her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, after whom she was named.