Sunday, July 21, 2013. 9th Sunday After Pentecost.
1 Corinthians 3:9-17. Matthew 14:22-34.
Homily by: Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church / 451 West Madison Avenue / Placentia, CA / 92870-4537
The word ‘synergy’ has become a popular, yet overused word. Many people throw this word around in presentations and there are many books that use the word ‘synergy’ in the title. Three of many examples include the following:
- Beyond Design: The Synergy of Apparel Product Development, 3rd Edition by Myrna B. Garner and Sandra J. Keiser (Jun 28, 2012)
- Food Synergy: Unleash Hundreds of Powerful Healing Food Combinations to Fight Disease and Live Well. Elaine Magee (Mar 4, 2008)
- Synergy: The Unique Relationship Between Nurses and Patients by Martha A. Q. Curley (Oct 31, 2007)
Mark Latash in his own book entitled ‘synergy’ said:
“The word ‘synergy’ has recently become very common in both scientific and nonscientific fields. This word is used in the names of companies, cereals, methods of education, interactions among humans and animals, and certainly in basic and applied studies of movements.” (p.1. Mark L. Latash, department of Kinesiology, Penn State University. Synergy.)
Mostly, this word is used today to refer to a cooperation with others that produces a result that neither party could have achieved on their own.
However, much before it became a word that so many people threw around to sound sophisticated, Saint Paul used this word to refer to the relationship that we have with God.
In today’s letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul says: “we are God’s co-workers.” (1 Cor. 3:9) Here the Greek word ‘synergy’ is translated as “co-workers” because this word literally means ‘to work with.’
This is a very important word and concept in our Catholic tradition because it is used to emphasize that neither God nor us work alone.
However, before humans were created, God did work alone. The book of Genesis focusses on this in the first verse which reads quite simply:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Then in the third verse there is a further emphasis on God creating both alone and instantaneously:
“And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3).
Although God created the first humans, after that He was only a co-worker in the creation of the life of every other human that was later created. God no longer worked alone, but began to synergize with humans.
In every aspect of our life, God still invites us to be co-workers -- to be in ‘synergy’ with Him. In the letter to the Corinthians that we read today, Saint Paul emphasises that we are co-workers, that is ‘in synergy’ with God, and also that we are co-workers/in synergy with each other. Saint Paul says: “According to God’s grace which has been given to me, as a wise builder, I laid the foundation, and another builds upon it.” (1 Corinthians 3:10)
This is an important point in our spiritual life to not think that either God works alone or that we work alone. We can neither say that God can do whatever He wants, nor can we say that we can do whatever we want. God works with us to encourage us to make good things happen in our life and when we work with God those things come to fruition.
The source of every good thought and every good thing we do is a gift that God Himself has given us. God has put the Holy Spirit in us to encourage us to do good thing and it is our response that determines whether the good that needs to get done, actually gets done. This is what working ‘with God’ / synergy means in the Christian tradition and as used by Saint Paul.
We have another example of synergy in the Gospel we read today. When Saint Peter sees Jesus walking on the water, he says: “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you over the water.” (Mt. 14:28)
With Jesus’s invitation and his own strong faith, Saint Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on water. However, when Saint Peter saw the wind he began to sink. Saint Peter focussed on his own fears and forgot that it was Jesus who had given him the power to walk on the water.
When Saint Peter saw himself sinking, he turned once again to Jesus and said:
“ ‘Lord, save me!’ And Jesus at once stretched out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind fell.” (Mt. 14:30-:32)
When Saint Peter was working in synergy with Jesus, he was able to do anything even walk on water. The invitation to walk on water came from Jesus and Saint Peter could only be sustained by staying focussed on Jesus.
This is a great example of ‘synergy’ with God and an inspiration for all of us to turn to God in our every need regardless of what it may be. When we to realize that true success is only achieved when we are working with God, then we can see God as the source of every inspiration and also see God as our our strength in accomplishing the good we need to do.
Very often we are like Saint Peter who turn to God only when we are not doing well, then forget God when things are going smoothly. Working with God means to remember God in times of difficulty as well as times of strength.
There were a group of scientists who got together and decided to tell God that human knowledge has developed so much that humans no longer need God. God said, “Ok, so let’s have a test to make sure that what you’re saying is true. I created a human person from the soil that was on the ground. Are you able to do that?”
The group of scientists said “of course we can. Watch this.” They went and got a big pile of soil and began to experiment. Then God said: “Wait a minute, that’s my soil. I made that. If you think you’re so smart, go get your own soil.”
It is good to think that we are smart, but it is even better to know that every good quality we have is a free gift of God that is to be used in ‘synergy’ with Him and how He intended us to use it.
The readings of today encourage us to ‘work with’ God and with others. This is the kind of synergy that helps us grow as men and women of faith.
In everything we do, let us remind ourselves that God is the source of every good inspiration and God is also our strength as we work hard to get those things done. We are in ‘synergy’ with God when we work with God and when we work for God.