In today’s Gospel Story (Mt 14:22-33) some disciples are in a boat when a bad storm comes up and they are terrified. They see Jesus walking on the water and call to him. He tells them “Do not be afraid”, one of his most common messages. He invites Peter to get out of the boat and come to him. Peter does, but when he stops focusing on Jesus he sinks. Jesus helps him and says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt”. When we let them, the Gospel Stories help us recognize Jesus happening in the ordinary affairs of our everyday living. The Incarnation means something, it is not just a nice idea. Jesus is in our life as it really is, every part of it. We don’t so much “find” Jesus as “recognize” him having been there with us all the time.
On our journey we might find ourselves in our own storms, some of which can be pretty bad and can make us as terrified as the disciples were. These happen not just in just the spiritual part of our life, but in every part of it. We might find ourselves having to make some serious decisions, perhaps with relationships, jobs, end of life issues. As difficult as our circumstances might be, they may seem safer than doing something ever more scary. We would prefer to stay in our boat. Like Peter, though, we feel the need to act.
Perhaps a wife is living in a violently abusive relationship. On the one hand she is told, even by religious authorities, that marriage is forever and she has to stay in the relationship. On the other hand she knows that it is not good to stay, but what she will endure if she takes action is terrifying. She is moving into the unknown, her own experience of a terrible storm.
Or our LGBTQ sister or brother who is feeling increasingly uncomfortable keeping who they are a secret, but knows they really need to face who they are and act accordingly. Secrecy might be a safe place for a while, but staying there does not let them be their true selves. They fear the backlash which, especially these days, can really be nasty, even harmful. This is especially and powerfully true with our young people who are just trying to figure out who they really are, and so often feel their only way is to end their life.
There might be some who feel the Spirit is moving them to say or do something that will bring them into conflict with certain parts of the church, who disagree with the church’s position on some issues, or maybe do not like the way so many, including bishops, are ignoring Pope Francis as he leads the church to be more open to the Spirit. In some places it is really not safe to be public with how they feel.
At Jesus’ invitation Peter steps out of the boat into the storm. As long as he focuses on Jesus he does well, but when he focuses on his own limitations, he sinks. As we live in our storms it is easy to focus on our own fears and limitations, and often we are afraid to do what we feel called to do. Jesus is continually telling us, “Don’t be afraid, it’s really me, we got this”. For many the storms are the people who don’t like the choices these folks feel called to make. These can be terrible experiences. Being misjudged by people who do not know us or understand what is going on is always unpleasant. Yet, we can come to the awareness that Jesus is with us in whatever is going on in our life, telling us not to be afraid. This is his constant message to us.
God does not cause the bad things that happen in our life, but God is with us as we deal with them. God loves us in a way that is not manipulative, but is aways inviting us to trust and to grow, to make the difficult choices and go where they take us, always knowing that in no way are we ever alone. The ongoing message that “we got this” is real, as hokey as it may sound. We learn this from our experience.
We fear the unknown. We can’t always run from what we fear, but at times have to face whatever it is. This is what the Story is about. It reminds us to pay attention to who is calling us to do what we have to do, and not on our fears or weakness, to be open to Jesus as he is, and let him out of the box we keep him in. Our life as it is, not at we wish it were or as others, even the church, tell us it ought to be, is where we find ourselves. None of us can demand others live their lives as we think they should. We are called to accompany, not to dictate or demand. We need to help people in abusive relationships, maybe assertively so. We need to accompany our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, to be with our young people trying to figure out who they are, as some very good folks are already doing. We are called to accompany, not judge, condemn, or threaten.
Jesus is with us in the people around us. At times others walk with us in our storms, and at times we walk with them in theirs. We are never alone. Each of us is created with our own set of gifts and limitations. We are made to live in relationships. Always, Jesus is with us. We may have to let go of who we want Jesus to be, so we can come to recognize him as he really is, not out there somewhere, but intimately with us in everything. When we are weak, we are strong. We don’t always know this. We are all in the same boat, and we need each other. Why do we doubt? We got this. Just sayin . . . .