Ask Our Lord for Help and Trust
“Oh man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
In the June, 2017 edition of the Christian Century magazine, in his article entitled The Temporary Gift of Marriage, Craig Barnes writes: It was the pastor’s last marriage prep meeting with Mike and Sue before their wedding. They had completed all the preparation work on the sacramental dimensions and practical issues of their new life together. Now all that was left was to finalize the wedding ceremony. As they were about to review the proposed liturgy that the pastor had drafted, Mike said, “Before we get into this, I have to say I’m really sacred.”
Seeing his fiancée’s stunned, pained expression, he said quickly, “Oh, I’m not afraid of marrying you, Sue. I’m just terrified of losing you.” Then he looked back at the pastor and explained, “Several years ago, my mother died, and it almost killed me.” Turning back to his fiancée, Mike continued, “What if something happens to you too? I can’t imagine how I would survive.”
The pastor wanted to say something like, Oh, Mike, don’t worry about that. You’re both young and there are so many wonderful years ahead for both of you. But he had buried too many young people to say that. So, as compassionately as possible, he said, “In my experience 100 percent of all marriages eventually come to an end, and you’ll never beat those odds”.
There was a pause before Mike stammered out, “What?” The pastor tried again. “Well, your marriage will end in either death or divorce. There are no other alternatives.”
This time Mike’s face was blank. The pastor continued:
“Let’s say you have a fabulous marriage that lasts as long as we can imagine. How about 60 years? Or even 70? There are few of those, but let’s assume you have 70 years, and that each of those years is an experience in deeper intimacy. Still, one of you is eventually going to have to lay the other into the arms of God. That day will tear you apart. The better the marriage the harder it is at the end.”
“(And) That’s the best possible scenario for your marriage — to share a love so incredible and so long with Sue that it almost kills you to give her up at the end.”
“So why do you want to go through all of that?” the pastor asked. “I say give her up today. Give her back to the Creator who made her, sustains her, and to whom she will always belong. Get the grieving over with before it becomes unbearable. Let God hold her. That way, every morning when you find her next to you, you can rejoice in the temporary gift you can still enjoy.”
Today we hear Jesus walking on the water from St. Matthew’s gospel.
This miraculous and remarkable episode of Jesus walking on the sea must have made a deep impression on the Apostles. It was one of their outstanding memories of the life they shared with the Master. It is reported not only by St Matthew, but also by St Mark, who would have heard about it from St Peter, and by St John. Storms are very frequent on Lake Gennesaret; they cause huge waves and are very dangerous to fishing boats. During His prayer on the hill, Jesus is still mindful of His disciples; He sees them trying to cope with the wind and the waves and comes to their rescue once He has finished praying.
This episode has applications to Christian life. The Church, like the Apostles’ boat, also gets into difficulties, and Jesus who watches over His Church comes to its rescue also, but only after allowing it wrestle with obstacles and be strengthened in the process. He gives us encouragement: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear;” and we show our faith and fidelity by striving to keep an even keel. We call “Lord, save me” when we feel ourselves weakening. These words of St Peter should be used by every soul when calling on Our Lord and Savior’s help. Then our Lord does save us, and we urgently confess our faith: “Truly you are the Son of God.”
St John Chrysostom comments that in this episode Jesus taught Peter and us to realize, from his experience, that all our strength comes from our Lord and that we could not rely on our own resources, or on our own weakness and wretchedness. Chrysostom goes as far as to say that “if we fail to play our part, God ceases to help us.” Hence the reproach, ‘O man of little faith.” When Peter began to be afraid and to doubt, he started to sink, until again, full of faith, he called out, “Lord, save me.”
If at any time we, like Peter, should begin to weaken, we too should try to bring our faith into play and call on Jesus to save us.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, to say I love you to another person – and mean it – is to attempt to walk on water; it’s to attempt to keep sailing your boat together through one storm after another, until your craft goes down in the final storm. All we can do, as this wise pastor counsels this couple, is to realize our vulnerability, to risk the hurt in order to experience God in our relationships, and to trust God to “catch” us when all seems lost.
And somehow, Our Lord reaches out and catches us, if we put aside all of our fears and try to do as Jesus wants us to do; trusting and understanding our baptismal calling.
Christ, in turn, promises to make His presence known to us, to hold us up and support us as we make our way through life’s most turbulent waters and “walk on water” for the good of the Kingdom of God!
Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!