7 August 2005: 19th Sunday of the Year
Matthew 14, 22-27: Walking on Water
The significance of the Gospel is perfectly clear to us: in the hour of the disciples’ need, Jesus came to them. When the wind was contrary and life was a struggle, Jesus was there to help. In life, the wind is often contrary. There are times when we are up against it and life is a desperate struggle with ourselves, with our circumstances, with our temptations, with our sorrows and with our decisions. At such a time, no one needs to struggle alone, for Jesus comes across the storms of our life.
Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October is a great spy novel. Red October is the name of a Soviet submarine, a super submarine. The captain, Marco Remius, is defecting from the Soviet Union because he’s a Lithuanian who has seen the brutality of the Soviets who came in and took over his country, and who also suppressed the Roman Catholic church in that country. He’s gone through the ranks, and finally he’s going to steal the Soviet sub. Throughout the whole book he has the Soviet navy–and the Americans and the English–looking for him; it’s very exciting.
One of the early passages in the book describes his inner thoughts, particularly concerning his wife, Natalja, who died because of the bungling of the Soviet medical system. The passage reads:
Marco Remius watched the coffin of his wife roll into the cremation chamber to the solemn strain of a classical requiem, wishing that he could pray for Natalja’s soul, hoping that Grandmother Hilda, who had had him secretly baptized as an infant, had been right. That there was something beyond the steel door and the mass of flame.
Only then did the full weight of the events strike him. The state had robbed him of more than his wife–it had robbed him of a means to assuage his grief with prayer. It had robbed him of hope, if only an illusion, of ever seeing her again.”
I guess, this tells us why religion, or faith is very important to our lives. Often we can see that those who believe, those who pray, those who placed themselves in the hands of God are lucky because they know they have someone who will save them. The Gospel tells us about St. Peter who acted on impulse, but when he failed, he clutched on Christ. St. Francis of Sales said that he observed a farm girl going to the farmhouse to draw water from the well. And when the pail was brimming with water, she placed a block of wood into it. When asked why, the girl said, “Why? To keep the water from spilling and to keep the water steady.”
So when your heart is distressed, in grief and agitated by the storms of life, put the cross at its center to keep it steady. Like the storm, the presence of Jesus will keep it calm and give us hope. How do we put on the cross of Christ?
Let me give you an example from the life of Blessed Peter Favre, one of the founders of the Jesuits. He was a preacher and his work was to win the Protestants back to Catholicism during one of the greatest storms in the life of the Church. He had a good effect on people: in Germany, he persuaded St. Peter Canisius to become a Jesuit, and in Spain, influenced the Duke of Gandia, who later on entered the Jesuits, St. Francis Borgia. His way was simple: he said, “It is necessary that anyone who desires to be serviceable at this present age should hold those who disagree with them with great affection and love, then offering them their goodwill and friendship, and conversing not about controversial subjects which lend to bickering and mutual recrimination.
Thus, the things that unite us ought to be the first ground of our approach, not the things that keep us apart. This is what we take at present when we dialogue with other religions. And in our private lives, when we are in conflict, this is best remembered. To patch a relationship, do not begin with the things that you disagree with, but begin with things that unite both of you. This is what we mean when we put on Christ’s first, his values more than our need condemn others with our self-righteousness.