[19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, August 10, 2014. /1 Kgs 19:9a,11-13a / Ps 85:9ab+10, 11-12, 13-14 / Rom 9:1-5 / Matt 14:22-33]
Have you ever started something, like putting an initiative into practice and halfway through losing courage? Something similar happened to Peter in the Gospel today (Matthew 14:22-33). With the other disciples, he was caught up in a storm. Jesus came walking towards them on the water. The disciples were terrified and started to scream that they had seen a ghost (phantasma in Greek). Peter then does a crazy thing. He says to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” How spontaneous is Peter! Jesus tells him to come and Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
It happens to all of us. We can start off with God but lose sight of him or lose faith on the way. Once St. Paul reproached the Galatians in a similar vein: “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).
It is very helpful for us every so often to stop and have a time out. As Socrates reminded us: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” We need to reflect on the steps that we have taken, to see where we are and take stock in a way. In this way when challenges come we can be more clear of which direction we are going in.
Once my group of missionaries and I went to celebrate a Mass in a school and felt it was an ideal moment to meet new people. After the Mass there was a program and it seemed a challenge to carry out our initial goal. I gathered the missionaries together again and we reminded ourselves of the aim of our visit and encouraged each other to go for it. Within 5 minutes we were all sharing with different people and I must say I enjoyed so much the people I met that afternoon. In actual fact a week later I caught up with some of them again.
What can I learn from that experience? That entering into situations it can be helpful to live with intentionality as opposed to just doing what I always might do, called “habituation.” Then afterwards, we can review our progress and see what needs to be done to correct it.
Perhaps many are used to doing this in their business or professional life but often do not put it into practice in their personal lives.
The Lord is always ready to help us when we call out to him. In Romans 10:13 we find: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Peter calls out to the Lord for help. What happened? Well he started off well and was even managing to walk on the water but on the way he noticed the strong wind. He lost sight of those words of Jesus—“Come!” He started to worry he would drown and cried out, “Lord, save me!” How did Jesus respond? By saying “I will let you drown a bit more so you will learn the hard way?” No!
Matthew the evangelist records that “immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him.”
Thank you Jesus because you are so close to us and so willing to help us when we fall or are sinking in our sea of doubts and lack of faith. Imagine that strong hand of Jesus hauling Peter out of the foaming sea. It is very comforting and reassuring to know that we have a God who understands our humanity and our weaknesses.
Why did Peter sink? Jesus tells him “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” We need faith to do what Jesus asks us. How is my faith Lord? Even George Michael recognized that “you gotta have faith!” I need faith in what Jesus is telling me. Lord, where are you inviting me to walk on water? Where are you inviting me perhaps into situations that I find daunting or challenging, where I do not control everything as the “ocean” or situation is too powerful? How can we recognize where God is inviting us?
Well, the first reading is helpful. God speaks to Elijah, not in the strong and heavy wind, nor in the earthquake or fire. Instead God spoke to him in a tiny whispering sound. God speaks in the tiny whispering voice of a well formed conscience, the tiny whispering of God in his Word, in the experience of the sacraments, in the life situations, in the advice of others.
Let us open our hearts and ask for the grace of perseverance —to begin well, to continue well and to end well. Lord, help us keep our eyes fixed on you in the storms of life. May we not lose our courage or faith and always remember that you are close to us, ready to grab our hand and save us when we start to sink. Amen.