Sunday, August 7, 2011

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

How many times have I grumbled and questioned to myself - "Do not be afraid? You have to be kidding me!".

The Lord's words can be hard to accept at times when we are in the middle of trials and tribulations of life. They can also be troubling when God asks something of us that we feel we are not ready for. Take for example my first big lectoring experience as described here: "Come, come, can you Lector?"

Today's Gospel is indeed another powerful one. Our pastor celebrated the Mass that I was lectoring today and boy was he on fire in every word he said. The Lord really spoke through him in a way that had me listening to every word. Sometimes homilies speak personally to everyone or just a few.  I'm not sure about everyone else, but today, I felt like I could listen to the pastor's every word and say "wow" when he was done. His point was simple and spot on. So many times, the nature is to feel like God is not with us during the "stormy" times of our lives. We fall away from prayer, don't trust God, and feel like we are abandoned. But, as I have come to learn personally, these are the times where we really learn more if we listen to the Lord and take a lesson away from the situation. I've found that I have had to humble myself in so many ways and just stop and listen, rather than babbling to God in prayer. It's a two way street and when I've stopped and listened to him, he's there speaking.

Personally, I felt renewed this week and empowered to speak the first and second readings today. After the homily, I was even more ready to lead the faithful in the prayers of the faithful. But, it was the Gospel that spoke so deeply to me, even though I've read it so many  times.

"After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”"

Simply put.... Why can't we seem to take God at his word and trust him? Today's Gospel actually sets up the tone for the Eucharist.  It comes in the Bible after the feeding of the 5000 where the disciples doubted Jesus. Here, he again says "Trust me." - that is to step out in faith and he will lead us to the truth.  This is tough at times, as our human nature seems to doubt God and want to test everything with science or some pass/fail test.  Sometimes, we want him to show us everything in miracles. "Come on statue, wink at me, wave a pinky.. do something!". True, sometimes some miracle or private revelation may be the way to show us his reality. But, he asks us to have faith and look at him for his word. We don't need to see a miraculous healing every day, a eucharistic miracle, or a Transfiguration to believe. We simply have to say "Yes" to God and he will reveal himself in the daily walks of life.  The thing is that God will pick us up if we fall. God knows that we stumble, doubt, and unfortunately sin.  However, he has placed a church with sacraments, including reconciliation which allow us to "Get up" and go back to walking with faith. One priest has given great advise to me in the confessional - saying essentially that God allows us to use our free will. He'll allow us to fall and use it to bring good for him, teaching us powerful lessons. I know this is true for me. I've learned so much from all the trips, stumbles and falls in my life.

Sometimes, I feel that the responsorial psalm may not fit well for the particular day. Today, it fit oh so well and I will end with this psalm and a prayer.

"I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD — for he proclaims peace.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and prepare the way of his steps.
R. Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation."

My prayer for the day -
"Lord, always help us to see your truths each day and believe your words. When we doubt, speak to us in ways that we can come and submit fully to you in the faith. Allow us to stop and listen. As the psalm says, let us see your kindness and grant us your salvation."