Tuesday, August 4, 2015

“Faith makes things possible, not easy.”

I will go peaceably and firmly to the Catholic Church: for if Faith is so important to our salvation, I will seek it where true Faith first began, seek it among those who received it from God Himself. ~St. Elizabeth Ann Seton S.C., (1774 – 1821: The first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized)

Gospel Text: (MT 14:22-36)
Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side of the sea,
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 him,
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.”

After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret.
When the men of that place recognized him,
they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought to him all those who were sick
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak,
and as many as touched it were healed.

Two things jump out at me in particular after reading the above passage: the invitation and the rescue. First, Jesus does invite Peter to do something really amazing, and I think we are invited to do extraordinary things, too. Through the Incarnation and his life on earth, Jesus showed us what humans are meant to be. We are meant to be loving, forgiving, compassionate, and merciful. We are meant to question and challenge figures of authority who seem to have forgotten that leadership means service to others, not protection of privilege and influence at all costs. Finally, we are meant to remain faithful to our deepest convictions and our central identity as beings created in the image and likeness of God. This might seem daunting, but I doubt most of us see it as miraculous. Human history and today’s news, though, are rife with stories of war, murder, deceit, and the worship of wealth and power. So when you look at that long tale, the humanity that Jesus invites us into really is extraordinary.

Second, there is the rescue. As I already mentioned, living in the way we are meant to live looks pretty daunting when we consider some aspects of the social and political reality in which we are trying to live, as well as the human jealousies, selfishness, and pettiness that each and every one of us is all too familiar with. So, we can probably count on failing or falling short with quite a bit of regularity. But God reaches out to us, like Jesus reaching out to Peter. Our focus on living the life that Jesus has revealed to us sometimes falters, but if we are open to and strive for that life, we won’t be allowed to drown. God doesn’t write us off every time we fail to live up to our deepest identity, thank goodness! Instead, God continually invites and reaches out to us when we need it, pulling us at our core and pushing us to be who God desires us to be.

If I examine my everyday experiences, where have I failed to live in a Christ-like way? Where and how do I feel continually called and pulled to change my ways? What do I need to do in my life in order to be open to and recognize when God is reaching out to me? Maybe it’s more regular prayer and reflection, journaling about daily experiences, or conversation with a family member, friend, or spiritual advisor. These can be some intentional avenues for us to watch for God’s hand reaching out to pull us up as we are continually invited to live in an extraordinary way.

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