August 9, 2020 at St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, FL
Kings 19, 9-13 + Psalm 85 + Roman 9, 1-5 + Matthew 14, 22-33
There is a lot more going on here than just a Gospel story about a storm on the lake and Peter jumping overboard. It is basically a story that confronts a serious mistake we often make when there are trials and stormy times in life. It is a mistake that has been hanging around for a long time, and it shows itself all too often in the face of natural disasters and personal tragedies. The mistake is a game too often played by people of shallow or little faith probably best called: “The Blame Game.” It is a bad way of explaining the reality of disasters and tragedies by suggesting that God is behind it all and does these things to test our faith. When in fact, most disasters or tragedies are simply the consequence of a natural phenomenon or the result of human sin. The truth is that God does not test our faith. That whole idea is almost cruel. The idea of a God who would take pleasure in scaring us or in pain is abominable. This Gospel invites us to think a little differently. It invites us to think more deeply about the trials and tests that inevitably arise in life.
What we can discover here is that God does not test our faith. Troubles, trials, tests are just a part of living. Politics, riots, disease are everywhere, and they are enough to scare anybody. Yet, these things help us to discover what we believe about God and about ourselves. Peter and his friends came to realize in the midst of their fright that they were not alone. They learned that day that God listens to our pleas, and just like last week’s Gospel, if we do what God asks even if it seems impossible like feeding five thousand people or walking on water, amazing things can happen.
Those disciples wanted an end to the storm, but rather than calm the storm, Jesus invited them to just walk over trouble waters. When one of them does what he asks, Jesus gets in the boat with them. It doesn’t say that he did anything or rebuked the wind. It just says they got in the boat and things calmed down. Rather than meet our expectations, God seems to offer to save us in ways we might think impossible.
If you can listen over the noise of this world and the storms of this life, you might hear God’s call: “Come.” It takes a little more than faith to get out of the boat. A great Jesuit mystic is quoted as saying, “What paralyzes life is lack of faith and lack of audacity.” What Peter and his companions learned that day is that faith itself is an audacious way to live, and all of us would probably do well, to learn that lesson from Matthew’s Gospel today. Half measures will not do. If you are going to get out of the boat, if you are going to “Come” when God calls, it takes more than faith. It takes what we might commonly say is “guts”. Faith without some plain old audacious courage isn’t enough, but put the two together, and you can walk over anything this old can throw at you.