Only Christ Can Save Us from Life’s Storms

Aug 13, 2017: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Kings 19:9, 11-13
Psalms 85:9-14
Romans 9:1-5
Matthew 14:22-33

In today’s Gospel, Peter shows both his rashness and his fickleness — two characteristics that makes it easy for me to relate to him.

It’s around 3 o’clock in the morning as the Apostles battle against a stormy sea, and Jesus comes walking across the lake towards the boat. The Apostles are scared stiff — they think they are seeing a ghost. Even Jesus’ assurance doesn’t dispel their fears. So, Peter takes the matter into his own hands and challenges the “ghost” to do something that only Christ could do — enable him to walk on the stormy water. And he does — for a few steps. Then Peter takes his eyes off Jesus Christ; he looks around at the waves and the storm, and he starts to sink. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he was able to walk unhindered through the stormy sea. As soon as he let his eyes wander away from Jesus to look at the frightening waves, he began to sink.

Similarly, as you and I try to make our way through the stormy temptations and challenges of life in a fallen world, only focusing on Jesus Christ can keep us afloat.

Christ is always close to us in our storms, asking us to believe in Him. In His words to Peter, tinged with disappointment, we see how much Jesus longs for us to trust Him: “Why did you doubt?”As soon as Jesus steps into the boat, peace and calm are restored. Jesus Christ wants to be our peace, our strength, and the solution to life’s troubles. St. Peter did not learn this lesson right away, but he learned it well. In his First Letter, he put it like this, “cast all your anxieties on him [Christ], for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Having faith in Jesus Christ does not mean that we will always understand everything that happens in life. It does mean that we always know who we are and where we are going.

This is the priceless value of the gift of faith.

There is a story about a man who was accustomed to giving orders and having his own way. One day he was traveling to an important meeting. He decided to take a shortcut and found himself thoroughly lost. He asked the first person he saw, a young boy, for directions. “Boy, which way to Waco?” he gruffly asked. “I don’t know,” the child responded, a little embarrassed. “Well, then,” the man demanded, “How far to Temple?” “I don’t know that either,” the child answered. “Is there someone around here who can give me directions, then?” The man raised his voice. “I don’t know,” shrugged the child. The man’s questions got angrier as the boy kept responding with the same answer. Finally, the man lost his temper and shouted, “Well you don’t know much, do you!” Then the boy smiled. Looking up the winding road to a little house where the evening light glowed through the window and where his brothers and sisters played in the yard, the boy said, “No… but I’m not lost!”

As Christians, we don’t necessarily have all the answers to life’s problems — though the more we study our faith the more answers we find.

Yet, if we stay focused on Christ and close to Him, we do have the one Answer that matters most — we know that we children of God, and God’s all-powerful love is always watching over us, even during life’s storms.

But how can we in the twenty-first century keep focused on Jesus Christ?

We will not be able to look into Jesus’ physical eyes, as Peter did, until Judgment Day.

In the meantime, we can still keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, in at least three ways.

First, we can spend time in prayer in the presence of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, under the appearance of bread. This presence is an ongoing miracle, a truly amazing gift of God’s love that we always have with us, right here and in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel next door, in the Tabernacle, right next to the sanctuary light, whose living flame reminds us of Christ’s living presence in this sacrament. Coming to make a short visit to the Eucharist, or coming to adore Him in a longer visit — this is one sure way to keep our gaze fixed on the Lord.

Second, we can always find Christ in the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is a unique book; God inspires it. When we read it with faith, seeking to find Christ there, He reveals himself to us. The Catechism quotes St Jerome on this point, saying, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” It is the immature and irresponsible Christian who does not take some time each day, even if only a few minutes, to gaze upon Jesus Christ by reading the Bible.

Thirdly, we can keep our eyes fixed on Christ by serving our brothers and sisters in need. Jesus himself said that whatever we do for our neighbors, we do for Him. He is present in them. Those members of our community who are participating in Church Under the Bridge in Austin today, will most assuredly gaze upon the face of Christ.

Today, as Jesus Christ, through this Mass, comes to us once again across the stormy seas of our concerns, worries, and weaknesses, let’s welcome Him with strong faith, and let’s promise to keep welcoming Him, to keep gazing upon Him, every single day.

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