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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My dear encountered couples:

We all have troubles. No one gets through life without them. Avoid them, ignore them, use any means we can think of to drug our senses or to distract our attention, sooner or later we just have to face the problems that come into our lives. As one army facing another has to make a decision, so do we - the decision to do nothing and allow ourselves to be overcome, or to deal with what it is that assails us. If you find yourself in water over your head, you either start swimming or start drowning.

Some problems are of our own making; others force their way into our lives without invitation. Anyone who wishes to become anybody worthwhile must deal with them. For they are all means for us to become better, stronger, mature. The person who meets difficulties and obstacles is the person who leaves childhood and becomes an adult. Fortunately, we are not left to face anything alone. God is always with us. That is what Jesus so often tried to teach us during his earthly life.

Notice Peter in today's gospel passage. He sees someone coming towards the boat walking on the water. “Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you across the water.” Well, it was Jesus. So, he said, “Come!” Then we're told that “Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water, moving toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, becoming frightened he began to sink.”

Remember, this was all Peter's idea. It wasn't Jesus who suggested it. He created the problem for himself. But the real problem was not merely the walking on water. The real problem was Peter trying to overcome the difficulty all by himself. It was when he became aware of the spot he was in, became frightened, and momentarily forgot about Jesus that brought about his sinking. Lucky for him he realized this soon enough. We are told he “cried out, 'Lord, save me!’” After that Peter was all right.

This example of how much faith we should have seems to go to an exaggerated extreme. Who of us is anywhere near possessing that much faith? We all have a long way to go before our faith in Christ is strong enough for walking on water. If for no other reason, though, the story is good for reminding us that we need to grow more in faith every day if we hope to ever reach the perfection required for total trust in God.

It might be a good idea to zero in more precisely on what is meant by faith in God. It begins, of course, with believing that God exists. But by no means is that the end of it. Even the Devil believes that God exists. Satan knows many other things about God too - three Persons in one God, eternal, infinite, etc. But Lucifer with all that faith is still in hell, isn't he? He is like a thirsty camel, believing there is water in the oasis, but refusing to go in after it. Faith goes far beyond believing in the existence of God and the many things about him.

Faith is believing that God loves you, wants to be totally involved in every small and large detail in your life, and is constantly trying to work it all out to benefit you in the best ways possible.

Faith is allowing him fully into your life so that he can handle everything as he wishes. Faith involves trust and confidence in God as your father, your mother, your best friend, your everything. Faith involves reliance on God to take you by the hand through every situation that comes your way - even if it includes things more difficult than walking on water.

And so, you can see why we are told that we are to be like children depending upon their parents for everything. But that very depending requires such great strength and courage that we do not remain childish and wimpy. It makes us grow and mature spiritually and psychologically until we become so much one with God that in eternity it will be obvious, we are his sons and daughters, like Jesus Himself.

I have said that we need to grow more in faith every day if we ever hope to reach the perfection of it. This means we must put forth effort each day. We need not start out with feats of walking on water. We need not invent problems and troubles. Just meet head-on those that come uninvited into your life or through your own mistakes - the many small ones - like the barking of the neighbor's dog, the hot and humid weather, the ice cream in the refrigerator that someone else beat you to, the mosquitoes and flies that never seem to leave you in peace. These are allowed into your life so that you can learn to have confidence in God to get you through them and bring you out a better person. Then you will find the strength needed to face the larger disappointments and catastrophes - like: losing your job, being rejected by the one you love most, your house burning down, serious sickness, even death in the family.

God wants you to know that nothing happens that he does not know about, that whether it is a result of sin or brought about by the natural order of events, he is with you - to lead you through it and make you and your life better. You will not see the really important results of your faith until you are in heaven. This is why this story of Peter walking on the water is brought down to us. We need to arrive at the faith it takes for that walk.

Where did Peter make his mistake? It was not in wanting to try something risky. It was in his taking his eyes off Jesus and concentrating too much on the difficulties involved - the wind and the waves. He knew he could not tackle them on his own. Neither can you. In everything, even in the smallest of accomplishments like trying to boil water, do it with confidence in Christ being with you. Before you know it, the water will not only be boiling, you will be walking on it, and it will feel cool - and solid - and secure.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, that is, be confident and trusting in Christ, and everything in the long run really will work out for your best.

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