Sunday, August 03, 2014

Command Me

Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest

From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms.  But the prophet who prophesies peace is recognized as truly sent by the LORD only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled.  Jeremiah 28:8-9

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.”  Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Matthew 14:28-30

Father, help us to hear what command you and Jesus have for us…be it to walk on the water, welcome the stranger, or preach the Good News.  Send us your Son and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to ward away the fear that will inevitably creep into our consciousness as we take up that task. Amen.

Should you say to yourselves, “How can we recognize that a word is one the LORD has not spoken?” If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the word does not come true, it is a word the LORD did not speak. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not fear him.  Deuteronomy 18:21-22

The word the Lord did speak was “change” (or repent or reform depending on your translation and change is indeed something we see in Peter. 

Contrast what happens with the boat people today and the boat people described at the end of John’s Gospel.  In both stories, the disciples are split away from Jesus.  The Lord is on the shore and the followers are in a boat on the sea.  In both stories, they do not really recognize the Lord in the distance.  In both stories, the disciples are being tossed around – today it is physical due to the storm and in John they are tossed around emotionally and spiritually after the execution of Jesus.  And, in both stories, Peter gets out of the boat in an attempt to be obedient and follow what Jesus is telling him to do. 

However, today, Peter has not undergone all the tests he is to face.  His faith has not yet been forged in the kiln and strengthened like clay in an oven. So, as Peter is challenged by the forces of the world, he sinks and gets scared.  Peter did not yet fully recognize the word of the Lord.  Therefore, when the forces of the world and nature became too strong, Jesus had to reach out and save Peter from Peter’s own lack of faith.   

In John 21:7b, we learn that “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.”  There was no sinking after the test of Good Friday.  Peter was able to swim to the Lord under his own power and fortitude and then help to haul in their overflowing nets. 

In yesterday’s (18th Sunday in Ordinary Time) reading, Jesus initially tells the disciples that it is their responsibility to feed the crowd.  They, however, look at the scarce physical resources available and protest that they cannot feed the crowd that was five thousand strong. Jesus steps in to teach the “multiplication” lesson about the lack of limits faith has.  Jesus does the same today with Simon Peter (who is not quite the rock – yet).

How often does our lack of faith get us into trouble?  When we are in trouble, to whom and to where do we look for strength?

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