Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Anthony/OLR, NOLA
doubts, and Jesus calls him out. With living, breathing evidence
right in front of him, evidence that Jesus is the Christ
long-promised by the Prophets, Peter doubts. His courage wavers, and
he panics, crying out to his Lord for rescue. We can't fault Peter
for his moment of weakness. We've all had them. We've all faced
people and events that rock the foundations of our faith. Why does
Peter doubt? B/c he's human. Like us, he's imperfect; he's frail and
afraid in a storm that could kill him. With Christ only inches away,
literally, just right there, he does what any of us would do: he
cries out for rescue; his desire to live betraying his faith. Jesus
saves him. Of course. And he will save us as well when we panic and
cry out. We don't know how Peter explains his doubt. His answer, if
he gave one, isn't recorded in the Gospels. Not knowing his answer,
we are free to ask and answer ourselves: why do I doubt? Why do I
fail to trust in the Lord's love and mercy? Why, when people and
events shake my world, do I panic and allow myself to sink close to
despair? “Take courage, it is I [says the Lord]; do not be afraid.”
can't help but notice that the Lord connects doubt and fear. Trusting
in God's providence is second nature when everything is moving along
smoothly; that is, when our lives are unfolding the way we want them
to. It's when the comfortable predictability of daily living becomes
uncomfortable and unpredictable that we begin to nurture fear.
Reaching out in panic to control people and events, we flop around
trying to steer our sinking ship; desperately bailing water; and
cursing the wind. This is when fear grows. Fear of loss. Fear of
injury. Fear of change, of letting go, and maybe even death. This
instability, this uncertainty leads us to think and feel that maybe
just maybe God isn't watching. He doesn't care. He's not going to
help. Maybe I'm being punished. Maybe I'm being taught a lesson.
Maybe just maybe there is no God at all. And that's its own terrible
fear. At this point, we can continue to flail about, grasping for
control; or, we can surrender to God's providence and give Him thanks
for the blessings we've received. One reaction feeds fear and doubt.
The other builds courage and strengthens faith. Trust is a habit. It
take time, patience, and practice. You have to see it at work over
and over again. But you will never see it at work if you never put it
to work. Surrender and let God take control.
says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus replies, “Come.” And Peter is able to walk on the water!
Peter's faith in Jesus seems unassailable. But notice something:
Peter puts the Lord to the test. IF it is you, command me. IF you are
there, Lord, heal me. IF you care, Lord, help me. IF you are who you
say you are, Lord, do as I ask. Is that faith? Is that trust? No, it
isn't. We know this b/c what happens next tells us that Peter isn't
believing; he isn't trusting or faithful. A heavy wind threatens to
sink him, and he panics. His request to Jesus is rooted in doubt. IF.
IF it is you. Rather than test his faith, Peter tests the Lord. And
fails his own test. But, again, we can sympathize with Peter. We
understand the need to be in charge, to be the captain of our own
boat. We know what it is to feel helpless when we can't choose our
own direction or pick our preferred route. It's maddening – giving
someone else control of our lives. What if they take me where I don't
want to go? What if they get lost or leave me abandoned? What if,
what if, what if. . .as if our own grasping at self-determination can
give us peace.
only source of peace is the peace of Christ. The peace that comes
with surrendering ourselves to being made perfect in him.
Surrendering attachments – the parasites of this world that leech
on our good will and intellect. Surrendering anger, vengeance,
jealousy, disappointment, the lust for power and control.
Surrendering our desire to become god w/o God – our pride, our
arrogance, our entitlement. Surrendering our favorite sins –
gossip, fornication, lying, theft, cynicism. Surrendering our habit
of worshiping false gods – money, celebrities, politicians,
athletes, popularity, and our tribe. Peace – the peace of Christ –
comes with ridding ourselves of everything that is not Christ.
Emptying ourselves of anything that doesn't honor Divine Love.
Anything that doesn't help us to be preachers and teachers of the
Word. Anything that stands in the way of our growing in holiness.
Peter doesn't recognize Christ on the water, so he dares to test his
Lord. Dispose of whatever it is that prevents you from recognizing
Christ in your storm. Nothing else and no one else can or will save
you when the water gets rough. Courage is being afraid and trusting
in Christ to spite your fear. Courage is a heart swollen in faith.
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