19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 9th August
There is a constant theme in this weekend’s Gospel story where Jesus invites Peter to walk towards him across the water. This seems impossible and unrealistic, yet Peter steps out of the boat in a belief that he can reach Jesus. Yet in the midst of the storm and beset by the wind it seems that Peter comes to his senses and recognises the precariousness of his situation. He might say to himself, “nobody can walk on water” or maybe, “what was I thinking I might drown”. Suddenly he is aware of his fears and the danger which surrounds him and he begins to sink. Yet in the midst of this dangerous situation, Jesus reaches out to him and pulls him back up and into the boat. The storm settles and everything seems to be calm again. Yet Peter is aware of the internal battle that still rages within him and his utter dependence upon the person of Jesus.
I feel that in these uncertain times we are constantly called by Jesus to walk on water. This seems impossible and impractical. We often want concrete solutions to concrete problems. We notice this when we turn to our political and civic leaders to rescue us from the current pandemic. Yet in many ways, we find them bewildered and confused about the best way to navigate the way through the crisis. Rather than too little information, there is too much that they are called to consider. Not only the health of the nation but also the welfare of people both in the short and long term. There can be an impression that we are all at sea and that the phrase that we are all in this together takes on fresh poignancy. The call, especially for this time, is to keep those who offer leadership in our prayers. We pray that they can keep their eyes on what brings life rather than on what threatens disaster and misfortune.
Also, for ourselves in the midst of the new “normal” we are called to step out in faith. We follow the health guidelines to keep ourselves and others safe. This can seem difficult because the distance from each other cannot be fully bridged by zoom. There is something about physical presence which needs to aid our encounter with God and with each other. This is probably the hardest part of this pandemic because we are called to be social people who support each other by our presence. This is not only an attention to what is real but where our bodies are there also is our hearts. How do we help each other in this time to discover that real presence of God who is at the centre of our lives? This can often be difficult when only limited numbers can gather in the Church at any one time. When communion seems to be reserved just to those able to attend Mass. There are longing and a desire for the presence of Jesus who sustains us. I believe this is where our prayer and our life are called to be Eucharistic. When we sit down for a meal we pray, share company with each other and can take action for the good of others. I believe especially in the light of this week’s explosion in Beirut and the tragedy unfolding in Lebanon we could take the time of fasting on one day during the week and using the money we save to make a contribution for their immediate needs. In this way when we break bread with each other we share a deeper communion both in Mass and in our regular meals for that deeper connection which unites in God especially at times of trouble. We are never alone when we encounter the person of Jesus who listens to our fears, reaches out his hand and says why did you doubt?
Fr. John Armstrong