Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 13, 2017
Jesus’s “walking on water” is a very dramatic Gospel that is well known to people of faith and to non-believers as well. It is a story about the power of nature and the greater power of Jesus Christ. It speaks to the power fear has over human nature and the desire for self-preservation. It offers a glimpse of the superior power of faith.
Two images from the past weekend kept running through my mind as I began to reflect on Peter’s very impetuous leap from the boat.
Last Saturday evening, I attended a wedding reception. Like the other guests, I was fully focused on the head table, as the maid of honor offered a toast to her big sister and new brother-in-law. She began by explaining that it was after their very first date that she started to think that her sister had found “the one,” explaining that: “she turned red when she talked about him.” Her suspicions were confirmed when she realized the couple had seen each other 75 days in a row. When she asked her sister: “How can you stand to be around each other so much?” The reply was simple but profound: “When you love someone, you don’t want to be apart.”
Love often does that to people. With the spontaneous, almost thoughtless reaction we see in Peter, people take the leap. They simply jump, often without a second thought, from their way of life (single life) into a relationship. And we all know things can get rough really fast.
The groom’s brother was very realistic in toasting the newlyweds. The best man spoke of the inevitable challenges of marriage. When a storm hits, he encouraged the newlyweds to turn to God and to loved ones before the ship sinks. In his own way, the young man, dressed in a tuxedo and holding up a glass of champagne, offered a suitable reflection on the Readings for this 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time. God is always there to help us through whatever nature, or human nature might throw at us. God is waiting with open arms to keep us from sinking.
Then, on Sunday morning, I had the great pleasure of baptizing an 8-month-old baby boy. Every single time I have the joy of co-operating with the Holy Spirit in awakening the Life of Christ in a little child, I “squint my spiritual vision” and try to get a glimpse of what the future holds for the child. And I pray! In fact, I feel a much more urgent and intense need to pray while standing at the Baptismal Font than when I am at the deathbed of an elder of our Church. It’s much easier to forecast what is to come when a Christian who has tried to live a Gospel-filled life is about to leap out of the boat into the dark, turbulent sea of death. Christ is there to calm the fearsome storm and to grab us into an eternal embrace of perfect peace, love, and joy.
But for the young child?
Maybe it boils down to this: Will a newborn in Christ take the leap and walk through life on the waters of Baptism…or will they sink into the dark depths of this world?
But there is no need to conclude on such a somber note. Our Readings, each in their own way, assure us that God is to be found in the eye of the storm. When the wind howls, thunder booms, lightning strikes…listen to that calming voice of Jesus…Do not be afraid! And keep on walking. The waters of Baptism will support you!