Don’t Waste Your Time; Get Out of the Boat – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s Gospel follows upon the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, a miracle to which the Apostles were eyewitnesses. Immediately after this, Jesus made them get into the boat…it’s not uncharitable; it’s Him making space for an opportunity of grace to help them grow in their relationship with Him. We know what’s about to happen, but they obviously have no idea. While they’re making the crossing, a storm comes up … not uncommon! Because they’re fishermen, kinneret-boatthey know there’s always a risk of storms on the Sea of Galilee. St. Matthew tells us that it was during the fourth watch of the night, which is basically the early hours of the morning, so it’s late into the night, and they’ve been fighting this for a long time. They’re probably sleep-deprived and physically exhausted from steering. Then, they see Jesus coming toward them. They think he’s a ghost; they’re afraid…I can’t blame them; I’d be afraid, too. Imagine seeing your best friend walking on water: “What the…who are you?”

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He responds to their fears: “It is I; do not be afraid.” Now, maybe the other Apostles were distracted by the wind and waves, but something in the words of our Lord made Peter acknowledge that, despite what his eyes told him, he recognized that voice! It may have seemed like a ghost, but it sure sounded like Jesus. As if to hear his voice one more time, Peter said: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come”. Our Lord responded: “Come!”

Stop right there for a moment! They’re in the middle of the Sea of Galilee amidst a storm, wind, and waves, being tossed about. Being a fisherman, Peter knows death is a real risk, as do Andrew, James, and John. Despite its being tossed about, the boat – by their estimation – is the safest place to be, but now they’re watching Peter about to step out of that boat right into the waves. This one who’s their friend, and in Andrew’s case, a brother, is now about to go to his death. One foot after the other, though, he gets out of that boat and starts walking on water. It’s a well-known detail of this story: with his eyes (and more importantly, his heart and mind) on Jesus Christ, Peter walked on water; when he took his eyes, mind and heart off of Jesus, Peter sunk! After they got back into the boat, the other apostles having seen the whole thing, now realized who the fool was (HINT: it wasn’t Simon); they did Him homage, an act reserved to God alone.

I often wonder about moments like this for St. Peter. It certainly would’ve seared in his memory; first, he walked on water! More importantly, ignoring ordinary logic, he did something humanly impossible by keeping his eyes fixed on Jesus! It’s a simple lesson: keep your eyes on Jesus, do the impossible; focus on this things of this world, and you’ll fail!

Just like the other Apostles who remained in the boat, watching the whole episode unfold, we’ve got a lot to learn from this moment with Jesus and Peter. Not that our lives our filled with storms; generally, our lives are rather calm, safe, comfortable. We have no terrorists, no threats on our lives; no lack of food, water, shelter, clothing, or other necessities. Occasionally, we encounter moments of serious suffering & trial: serious illness, tragic death. BUT, unlike many others, our lives are more often filled with a moderate level of distractions: activities, events, running here and there; people and things pulling us every which way, making lots of demands on our time, which can feel like being tossed by waves.

Then Jesus approaches us in one way or another … challenges us to do things differently, to live differently. It’s not necessarily turning away from sins, but more often a challenge to us to love Him more, to love Him the way we should, to serve Him with a more radical generosity and openness, to abandon ourselves in trust to His plan for our lives. Rather than serving Him, while living our own lives, we should be saying with St. Paul: it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!

stormy_sea1So… our response, like the 11, can be to stay in the safety of our little boat. We say that the things that God, the Church, the Bishop, or Father are asking of us seem impossible: regular daily quiet time for prayer, family time, family prayer and spiritual reading. Or, in general, that generosity of our time, talent, and treasures for God, His Church, and His people. We say that we’ve got “too much” going on! But, Jesus wants to break our routine, challenge us to something deeper. It seems easier to stay where it’s safe, to not rock the boat or break ranks with family and/or friends. Could I get more done and gain more personally by keeping my time, money, and talents to myself? YES, at least in the immediate future, but there’s no protection from the rust, moths, and thieves. As Christians, we’re called to store up treasure in Heaven! When the 11 look at Peter out there sinking, his radical willingness to follow seems stupid, but they’re gauging it by the world’s standard. The 11 are paralyzed by a fear that might easily be explained away as “being reasonable”, they’re rationalizing away a radical relationship with Jesus Christ. Ironically, even the boat isn’t very safe; it’s being tossed about by the wind and waves. When we consider the situation from a purely human perspective, it’s all foolishness, but, frankly, it’s a narrow, dull vision of life compared with that which Christ offers. When we look at the lives of the saints, they tell a different story! They say: it’s actually safer walking on water with Jesus.

So we can be like the Apostles in the boat or like St. Peter and get out of the boat. As St. Paul wrote: “the love of Christ compels us, b/c we are convinced that one has died for all…that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for Him who for our sake died and was raised…” (2Cor5:15). This is our first vocation as Christians: to live for Jesus! As Benedict XVI taught us: “Christ did not promise an easy life. Those who desire comforts are misled. Rather, He shows us the way to the good, to God Himself…” While others might think it’s a ghost or a voice in your head, Peter was able to say, despite what the confusion of his sight, “I know that voice.” The closer we are to Him, the more we’ll be familiar with it, too. When we boil it down to the two options, staying in the boat because we think we know best OR accepting the Lord’s invitation to step out of our safe, comfortable world and come closer to Him… THEN it’s easy to see! How foolish it would be to stay in that boat!

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This is the offer our Lord personally makes to each one of us today: it’s not made generically to my parish, my family, my spouse, my kids, my parents, or my friends. He makes it to each & every one of us AND we each need to give our personal response! You can either stay in the boat where it’s safe OR be that radical disciple who responds to the Lord’s invitation to come and do what you thought impossible. Because of the influence of sin in our lives, we want to limit our generosity to our Lord. We want to hold back, keep something for ourselves; He wants us to come to Him…it’s a profound lesson for us, just like it was for Peter! Where am I holding back from giving everything to and for Jesus? What’s foolishly keeping me in the safety of my little boat? We have to ask JC for the grace/courage to take that first step, to accept that invitation to really love Him and follow Him in this life so as to be with Him in the next.

Finally, it’s always good to remember Who it is we’re invited to come to. St. Clare reminds us so beautifully:

“His beauty eternally awes the blessed hosts of heaven, his love inspires love, his contemplation refreshes, his generosity satisfies, his gentleness delights, his memory shines sweetly as the dawn, his fragrance revives the dead, his glorious vision will bless all the citizens of that heavenly Jerusalem. For He is the splendor of eternal glory”

Audiences, Congregations, & Participation

It’s home to the Church founded by the Apostle Barnabasimg_0381 and guided by the likes of St. Ambrose and St. Charles Borromeo. It was historically more important than the city of Rome in the late days of the western Empire. It’s noticeably cleaner and more orderly than “other parts” of the great republic of Italy. Among Italian cities, it’s second in size only to the Eternal City, but the two would rival one another for their importance both past and present. If one, therefore, finds oneself in Italy for more than a month, Milan is a necessary stop.  Continue reading “Audiences, Congregations, & Participation”

The Journey of LIFE

On his apostolic journey to Santiago de Compostela, Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI said, “To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselveswhichroute2014 in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendor and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.” When making some sort of physical journey to a holy place, we live out, in a metaphorical way, what we live out every day of our lives: seeking to encounter God as He comes to us, and (hopefully) getting closer and closer to the Home of our Heavenly Father. This same idea was reiterated by both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Francis. That being said, it wasn’t till spending a few days walking the Camino to Santiago that I really began to understand that our lives are basically one big pilgrimage. Continue reading “The Journey of LIFE”

For Our Country

St. Peter john-carroll-feature-610x343writes in his first letter: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (2:17) Following his instruction, Archbishop John Carroll, first bishop of the United States, wrote the following prayer for our country, a fitting prayer as we celebrate our nation’s independence: Continue reading “For Our Country”

God’s Words

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” (Jn14:23-24) It’s a simple instructive; thumbnailour obedience to our Heavenly Father is a sign of our love for Him. Our love for Him will be
reciprocated by love on His part for us; it’s not, however, that we’re earning God’s love, but as St. John reminds us elsewhere: He first loved us (1John4:19). Our love is a response to His and our response, according to God’s design, prompts a further response on God’s part. This continual reciprocity, give-and-receive, leads mysteriously into a deep union between lovers; in this case, between Creator and creature. Continue reading “God’s Words”

“I’ll pray for you”: the “Nuclear Option”

The Big 3 – St. Peter Chrysologus

There are three things, my brethren, by which faith stands firm, devotion remains constant, and virtue endures. They are prayer, fasting and mercy. Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other. Continue reading “The Big 3 – St. Peter Chrysologus”

Be Still and Know that I am God

The Diocese of Lecce is officially located in the italiaregion of Puglia, Italy…what we know as “the heel” of the boot. The locals, however, prefer the more traditional/ancient/ provincial (however you want to look at it) distinction: Salento. Whatever you call it, this ancient city was of great importance from the period of the Roman empire; before that, it was known to have trade relations with the Greeks. Visiting it, you can still see ruins of the Roman amphitheater and other structures dating from the 1st Century AD or earlier.  Continue reading “Be Still and Know that I am God”

Divine Conscription

Just a few days ago, as we began the holy season of Lent, the Church, in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday, described it as a “Campaign of Christian service.” As Americans, the notion of a campaign might evoke images of individuals traveling around, trying to convince us why we should choose them to lead our country. From the perspective of the Eternal City, however, the notion of a campaign involves a king or a general and an army marching out into battle. This is the image the Church takes up with respect to this spiritual campaign, a battle against an enemy. Continue reading “Divine Conscription”

Awaiting our Only Hope: the 4th Sunday of Advent

After an initial lament, the Psalmist, in Psalm 80, recalls what God has done in days past: You brought a vine out of Egypt; to plant it you drove out the nations; before it you cleared the ground; it took root and spread through the land. In the words of Ps147:20, He has not done thus for any other nation. This great thing the Lord has done for His people, a sort of recreation, paralleling that first creation of Genesis, is recalled, for it shows the utterly gratuitous gift of God. Continue reading “Awaiting our Only Hope: the 4th Sunday of Advent”