Saturday, August 9, 2014

Heeding the Lord's call, overcoming fear

This Sunday's readings continue in the same dramatic mode as those of the past few weeks. No matter how many times I encounter the event of St Peter walking across the water to where the Lord was, before faltering and beginning to sink, I have a tendency to ask, "Why did he let himself sink?" But the answer is simple: fear. Upon noticing "how strong the wind was" he was scared an began to doubt whether he could remain walking on the water, whether he could make to where Jesus was.

The take away, as I see it, is that we, too, have to learn that our desire to go to where Jesus is, in the first instance, requires us to get out of the boat, which means overcoming both fear and doubt. I know, at least for me, the safety of the boat, even on a stormy sea, is preferable to stepping out of it. We sometimes hear people say about sky-diving, "You'll never catch me jumping out of a perfectly good airplane." For most of us, this understandable. Certainly being a Christian does not require us to go sky-diving, bungee jumping, or para-sailing. It does require us to step out of the safety of the boat to meet the Lord where He is. In terms of discipleship, this should cause us to ask, "What do I fear? What doubts, fears, hesitancy keeps me from walking towards Jesus?"

Like Peter, we can only take a first step towards the Lord, who invariably summons us. As we take our first steps, we, too, will begin to notice the strong winds and waves of life, which will probably cause us to look backwards at the boat. But we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and realize that it is His power and His power alone that makes this journey possible. As we make our way to Him the winds and waves will continue blowing on us and crashing around us, causing us to fear and doubt.

I find the most encouraging part of this whole episode to be when Peter started to sink. As he sank, "he cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" Upon hearing Peter's cry, we read that "Immediately," that is, without hesitation, "Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter." Once we step out and walk at His summons, Jesus will never let us sink. I have to say, I am not sure what this means in terms of the violence our Christian brothers and sisters are experiencing right now in Northern Iraq.

Elsewhere, in the context of teaching about the Eucharist, Jesus taught, "And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day" (John 6:39-40). In addition to praying that the violence and terror committed against our Iraqi sisters and brothers, as well as others, including some Muslims, will immediately cease, let us also pray that through the wind of waves now buffeting them, they can keep their eyes fixed on Jesus, who summons them towards Himself.

Today and every Sunday the Lord summons us to the Eucharist. He calls us out of our pews to walk towards Him in order that we may see Him and so He may fill us with life, which is nothing other than Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we falter, our cry for help, for salvation, is going to confession, something we should do with more rather than less frequency. By so doing we can experience for ourselves both how He immediately saves us and savor the sweetness, a down payment, on what who He saves us for.

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