One day God looks down at Earth and sees all of the evil that is going on. He decides to send an angel down to Earth to check it out. So God calls one of His best angels and sends the angel to Earth for a while. When she returns she tells God, yes it is bad on Earth, 95% is bad and 5% is good. Well, God thinks for a moment and God thinks that maybe He’d better send down a second angel to get another point of view. So God calls another angel and sends her to Earth for a time also. When the angel returns she tells God, “Yes, the Earth is in decline: 95% is bad and 5% is good.” To rectify the situation God decides to send a postcard to the 5% that are good. God wants to encourage them and give them a little something to help them keep going. Do you know what that postcard says? [Oh, you didn’t get that one either, huh?]
Even in the midst of crisis, God remains. So stay in the boat!
Why does Peter get out of the boat? God inspires us to build the airplane to fly the skies. God inspires us to build the boat to navigate the waters. We cannot flap our arms to fly. How are we going to walk on water?
Ancient is the thought of the Church as a ship, a boat or a bark. In Church architecture, when we refer to the main seating place of the people we refer to that place as the “nave” of the church. It comes from the Latin meaning “ship” or “boat.” Christ is our navigator and we are the members of the Bark of Peter. So why did Peter leave? People often say, “Well, Jesus calls him.” Jesus only tells Peter to come after Peter challenges him in his disbelief. “Lord, IF it is you…” walking on that water. “…IF it is you…” he said. Peter’s lack of faith is not because he cannot walk on water. He doubts that Jesus can walk on water. And to prove a point he gets out of the boat. He leaves the safety of the disciples. Miles from shore with waves beating up the ship, Peter leaves the Church, only to sink.
Peter is not the only one to leave to prove a point. As Queen Jezebel seeks to kill him, Elijah runs away. He runs to the mountain of God hoping to die. Instead, God tells him to go to the entrance of the cave. God tells Elijah to get out of hiding and look for the presence of the Almighty. Does Elijah find God in the crushing wind…in the mighty earthquake…in the burning fire? No, God does not exist in those elements. Coming out of hiding, Elijah discovers the Almighty in a tiny whispering sound that dins his ears like a reverberation.
We cannot walk on water, so why leave the boat? Peter does not believe that Jesus is the True Navigator, the one who has power over all creation. Remember that when Jesus challenges the disciples for their lack of faith that he can walk on water, he asks them, “…Why did you doubt?” Or, better put, “why do you waver in choosing the best way?” The answer, my brothers and sisters, is to stay in the boat, stay together and support one another. It is within community that God dins our ears with his voice. It is within community that Jesus comes walking toward us. In the words of St. Benedict, “Listen…with the ears of our hearts,” together!
Today, we Christians in America ought to hear the cries of our Iraqi Christian brothers and sisters. In his Angelus today, Pope Francis speaks out: The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief: thousands of people, including many Christians, driven from their homes in a brutal manner; children dying of thirst and hunger in their flight; women taken and carried off; violence every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies. All this gravely offends God and humanity. Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God! I ask all Catholic parishes and communities to offer a special prayer this weekend for Iraqi Christians.
So, right now, may we all close our eyes, bow our heads and pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq?
Paul anguished over people who did not accept Christ. May we anguish during the Eucharist today because still in the twenty-first century people are persecuted for staying in the boat and looking for Christ.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Picture Credit: Mark Kurowski, Benedictine University