|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
August 13th, 2017; 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” 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!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Exhilaration, adventure, a leap of faith – we get brave and step out onto the water…outside our comfort zone. For a brief moment, his eyes fixed on Jesus, Peter did just that. Then, a gust of wind distracted him, and Peter’s gaze turned to the strength of the wind rather than the strength of the Lord. His faith sank and so did he. Yet, as quick as he had turned from the Lord, he turned right back. He immediately reached out to Christ for help. Jesus did not delay, He caught Peter as soon as he asked. Jesus didn’t let Peter flounder in the water gasping for air as He lectured him. He cast no words of spite, no “I told you so”, or “that’s what you get for not believing more in Me.” Jesus came to reveal the Father’s love, and on this night He demonstrated the Lord’s compassionate mercy for our weak nature.
Discipleship calls us beyond our comfort zone, and even beyond our natural limits. Yoked to Christ, He enables us to walk on water. Like Peter, we might step out of the boat in total confidence in our Lord. Once on the water however, we become fearful as we realize our total dependence on His supernatural help. It’s much easier to have faith floating on the water in a boat, than walking on water barefooted.
I remember the excitement of getting my first teaching job, and the enthusiasm of teaching students about God. Then, the first day of class arrived, and panic struck. “Yikes!” I thought, “How I am I going to get through the day? What I am I going to say for a whole class period?! What if a student misbehaves? What if I’m a terrible teacher?…” I also remember the joy of holding my first child in my arms the day he was born. It was absolutely surreal. Two days later the nurse walked us out to the car and waved goodbye. As we put my son in the car seat and drove away anxiety erupted, “They’re just letting us take him?! We don’t know anything! What if I’m a terrible mother? What if I say or do something that scars him for life?!…” Lastly, when I do speaking engagements or workshops, I’m exhilarated at the opportunity to share the joy of God’s saving love with others. A half hour before the talk however, worried thoughts begin to percolate up, “Why did I agree to do this? It would be far more comfortable to be at home watching Netflix. What if I fail? What if everyone is bored? Who am I to do this, I’m a sinner like everyone else?” Like Peter, I begin to sink but then I cry out to the Jesus. He reminds me that I teach, mother, and speak because He has called me to. He assures me that though I am not worthy, He is, and He is with me. He also pushes me by filling my heart with so much gratitude for His love in my life that I can’t resist sharing it with others.
The challenge of discipleship is living at a level only sustainable if Christ is real, and if He’s someone ready to help. It requires taking a risk, so much so that if Christ is not real, you would be at a loss. Consider how many times God tells us in Scripture to be not afraid. Pope St. John Paul II chose these words for his first statement as Pope, knowing how much we fear as we look around at the dangers that surround us.
When I begin to sink in fear a few verses come to mind that strengthen me. First, I think of 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
|“Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”|
St. Paul felt too weak to face a challenge on his own. Rather than remove the difficulty, Jesus promised to provide the strength. St. Paul realized therefore, that the weaker he is, the more God’s power must be at work in him to accomplish God’s will. He moved from anxiety to total confidence, and writes in his letter to the Philippians,
|“I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (4:13)|
We can trust Jesus to come through for us. We can answer His call, even if it means going beyond our natural limits. When we struggle to take that leap of faith beyond our comfort zone, Christ urges us to simply reach out and He will be there for us as He was for Peter.
|“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:7|
Ask, seek, knock, and you just might walk on water.
- How has following Christ stretched you beyond what you expected?
- When has Christ made an endeavor more fruitful than it would have been by your own merits?
- Have you ever felt like Peter, walking on water, in awe of Christ’s divine power?
- Have you ever faltered because of fear, worry, or anxiety?
- What Scripture verses or memories reassure you of Christ’s aid?
- Is Christ calling you to something outside your comfort zone right now? What holds you back? What inspires you forward?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Take one risk each day for your faith.
- Ideas: Inviting your spouse to pray together, praying as a family, saying “God bless” to someone on the phone or a at work, speaking up when someone is criticizing the Church or using God’s name in vain, sharing your faith with someone in need of comfort, going to the Sacrament of Confession, responding to God’s call in your vocation or job…
~ Written by Angela M. Jendro © 2017
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