It’s hard to believe that it’s August already. The summer flew by and soon students will be heading back to school. Or some facsimile thereof.
This year has been full of surprises and dramatic changes. With all that’s going on, it’s no wonder people become distracted as they go about their daily routines. The pandemic has turned our lives upside down, causing us to question if our country and our community will ever be the same again. Yes, we have to take protective measures in public spaces and change the way we do things. But through all this keep in mind, Jesus is with us. We’re not facing these challenges alone, Jesus is there for us to reach out to.
So I encourage you to go get your Bible and take a look at the Gospel passage Matthew 14:22-33. You’re going to see a convincing example of faith. But you’ll also see the effects of a faltering faith. When you read it, take your time and take notice of the imagery of what’s going on around the disciples and how this passage can have an impact on your life.
Does this Gospel reading tell us anything about the mindset of Jesus? Early in the passage, Jesus goes off to pray by himself, which is something he often did. He also sends the disciples out on their own in a boat only to face a turbulent sea. Was this a test on Jesus’ part? Was this to see how the disciples would react to adverse situations? One may think he was. So, let’s dive in, no pun intended.
Put yourself in the scene. It’s between 3 and 6 o’clock in the morning, pitch black, extremely strong winds, most likely waves crashing over the boat. You can only imagine that even through the combined efforts of the disciples, maintaining control of the boat would’ve been nearly impossible. But what is it that calms them, sets their minds at ease? Jesus.
What the disciples thought was a ghost was actually Jesus coming to their aid. He reassures them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid” (14:27). In their hour of need, Jesus’ presence, His voice calms them. The disciples’ reaction speaks directly of their faith and trust in Jesus.
In our times of need or distress we may call out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” Why? What makes us cry out to Jesus? The answer is simple, it’s faith and trust. These two things go hand and hand. Faith is a powerful thing built on trust. We put our faith in those we trust. Peters’ faith gave him the confidence to take that initial step into the stormy water, but he allowed outside forces, the strong wind, to question that faith and be engulfed by the storm. “Lord, save me!” (14:30)
Can you imagine what it must have felt like to utter those words. There must have been sheer terror in Peters’ voice. Don’t we get that way sometimes, in the moments of our lives, when we feel overwhelmed by stress, a loved one’s illness, the turbulent seas that churn away at everyday life. Our faith has a tendency to waiver, much like Peters’.
In these moments, is it not Jesus who we invoke to keep us from going under. We can’t reach out and have Jesus take us by the hand as Peter did, but we do find His presence in the Eucharist. This is one way Jesus makes a real presence in our lives and strengthens us.
We also bolster our faith through other Sacraments, especially Reconciliation. We come to the Lord with our faults and weaknesses seeking mercy and forgiveness. The Lord is there, waiting for us to take that step toward Him. As He reached out to save Peter, so too will He be here for us.
It reminds me of the poem, “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Fishbeck Powers. The ending puts into perspective the love and protection that Jesus displays to those who follow Him.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me. He whispered, My precious child, I love you and will never leave you. Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
Jesus’ love for us is so great and abundant that we are lifted up by Him without our knowing. Trusting in the Lord’s love carries us unknowingly.
Peter so trusted the Lord that he was willing to leave the secure location of the boat and venture into the stormy seas. Walking out into the unknown, trusting in Jesus. We too must be willing to shake off our inhibitions and “Come” to Jesus. Allowing Him to assist and guide us in ways that will bring aid and comfort to us, as we struggle through life. Peter and the disciples were drawn to Jesus and followed Him. This faith blossomed into a vocation.
Each of us are called to a vocation, be it to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, married life, or the single life. Whatever the direction that vocation takes you, rest assured Jesus is alongside you every step of the way. With every vocation there is that first step into the unknown, stepping into the deep water. Faith and trust in Jesus will keep you from becoming overwhelmed by the seemingly rough waters of life.