Supernatural is the operative word for today’s readings. God speaks to Elijah in a breeze; Jesus comes to his disciples walking on the water. Last week, from Matthew, it was the Transfiguration. Miracle following upon miracle and all with the obvious conclusion—Jesus can accomplish what would be obviously impossible for us mere humans (by the way, a truth not lost on our patroness, St. Rita). He is supernatural! Even the disciples conclude:
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Another Gospel passage from Matthew described the miraculous “feeding of the vast crowds”; there Jesus encouraged us to realize that “the few loaves and fishes that we have are all that Jesus needs” to accomplish the miracle of seemingly impossible and overwhelming needs of ministry even here in our own parish of Saint Rita. If that is the wonderful application and understanding of that miracle, what might be the application of Jesus’ immortalized “walking on the water”?
While in both cases we may consider the meaning of Jesus’ miracles both personally and communally, the involvement of Peter in the “walking on water” episode begs a personal application, a significant message and meaning for our own spiritual journey. Recently a Benedictine scripture scholar, commenting on this Gospel episode observed about St. Peter, “He was called ‘The Rock,’ and in this case, he sank like a rock!”.
Peter’s challenge in faith was certainly brought home to me once when my own “faith rug” was pulled out from under me. Ordained only a few years I was seriously considering leaving active ministry as a priest when providence brought me to another priest who had just faced a most serious challenge to his own commitment. I explained to him that I was desperate and felt dead ended. So what did he do, I inquired, when he was dealing with such an assault on his own sense of wellbeing and clarity of mission? His answer and advice to me was: “Sometimes in life we are like Peter when he was sinking in the water. Everything around us is out of control and the absolute and only thing to do for the moment is to pray loudly, ‘LORD SAVE ME!’ and then reach out to let him take your hand.”
Have you ever “been there” like Peter or know someone else who has been in the zone of desperation? Has our Church or the world at various times in history “been there”? As we who hail from Minnesota are wont to say, “You betcha!” My priest friend, who truly was Christ for me that day, was quick to add for my own encouragement, “Peter’s prayer is called ‘The LORD SAVE ME! Prayer’—and prayed sincerely and with surrender to ‘whatever its going to require of me’— is a prayer Jesus always answers.” He always stretches out his hand and catches when we are sinking like a rock.
Some people, I fear, do not have real faith in the Lord’s always being there, because they have experienced disappointment in their praying to God and in their crying out. However, we must remember that “man does not think as God thinks.” The consummate threat to our wellbeing is death, is it not? And even in this, Jesus’ saving hand is outstretched to catch and save us, for he has conquered both sin and death! This fact diminishes all of our other problems and puts things in God’s own perspective. If we understand this, then we can understand why a true Christian can make the claim, “Jesus truly never fails.”