Monday November 18, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Acts 28:11-16, 30-31) Gospel (St. Matthew 14:22-33)
We hear in the Gospel reading today about Peter sinking into the water and the Lord catching him and pulling him back up and then chastising him and saying, “You of little faith, why did you falter?” We just see how much of ourselves is right in that little statement. How often we begin to sink as the things around us get difficult. But we hear too about Saint Paul in the first reading. We know from other places that he knew what was coming; he had been warned from place to place. He did not know exactly what it was going to mean, and one can look at that and realize how easily he could have faltered. If someone were to come to you, time after time, place after place, and tell you that you were going to die, that this is the last time you are ever going to see the faces of these particular people, that they do not know exactly what is going to happen but you are going to be tied up and led off to Rome and on and on it goes, it would be very easy to get afraid, to begin to sink, to lose faith in the Lord. Yet what we see is that the Lord brought him to Rome where he was able to continue to preach, even though he was imprisoned and under guard. He continued to preach the kingdom to everyone who came and they were allowed to come to him freely.
So we see how the Lord works. He allows us to suffer. He allows us to deal with very difficult things. The winds and the waves, as we know, can get pretty strong and pretty high and still He is there with us in the midst of it. And He is asking us to remain firm because He will work it out. He will take care of us. When we begin to sink, if we cry out to Him like Peter did, He will reach out and save us. But He will allow us actually to feel the water because we are the ones who have faltered; we are the ones who are sinking. The grace is there for us to be able to remain above the fray if we will simply keep our hearts and our minds focused on Him. But what is so easy for us to do is start noticing all the other trouble, all the other things that are going on in our lives, and we begin to sink; we get weighed down under the burden of it. And while we know by ourselves we cannot walk on water, if we have a burden of a few hundred pounds on our shoulders, we certainly are not going to be able to stay on top of the water. But since we cannot walk on it by ourselves anyway, what difference does it make how much weight is on our shoulders? That is not going to make us sink as long as we are united to the Lord.
But that is all very easy to say; to do it is something which is exceedingly difficult and we all know that because all of those things that swirl around us are all seemingly very important and very painful and very difficult sometimes. Some of it has to be addressed; we have no choice. But all we need to do is to look at what Paul did; we need to think about what happened with Saint Peter. Here is the man who was to lead the Church, and the Lord was teaching him that in all of the things that were going to happen as the Head of the Church, that he was going to have to rely on Christ, that there is no possible way, humanly, that Saint Peter could have done it – just as we can look today and say, “There is no possible way, humanly speaking, that John Paul II can do what he is doing.” There is no way that any human being can do what he is doing all by himself. And so they need to rely on the Lord. They need to be in front of the Blessed Sacrament. They need to be united with Christ. They need to be looking to Him for the guidance of what it is they are to do, what decisions they are to make, and so on.
Well, maybe God has not asked us to lead the entire Church; maybe He is asking you to lead a family; maybe He is asking you to deal with things in your workplace or whatever it may be that goes on in your life. But it is the exact same principle: We need to focus on Christ. We need to keep our hearts where they belong so that we are looking to Him to see what His Will is. As long as we are united with Him, we are not going to sink. It may feel like it sometimes, but He is there with us. Remember with Peter, Peter is the one who asked Jesus to tell him to come to Him on the water. And when he began to sink, Jesus was on the water with Peter; He did not leave Peter. He reached out and grabbed him and pulled him up. The same is going to be true of each one of us. Jesus is right there, and if we are willing to get out of the boat and walk to Him on the water, we are going to Him, He is not leaving us, we are coming to Him. As long as we keep our focus on Him, we will be fine. The winds and the waves are going to be there but so is the Lord.
As long as we are on the water with Christ, there is nothing at all to worry about. The Lord will bring great good out of it as He did for Saint Paul, who was able to continue to preach in Rome, and as He did with Saint Peter, who was able to found the Church in Rome. As they learned that this was the way the Lord would work, when it came time for their martyrdom, they were able to accept it with great peace because they had learned how the Lord brings great good out of what even seems evil and how, in the midst of the wind and the waves, the Lord is right there to lift us out of it. So it is with their martyrdom, so it is with their work, so it was with everything in their lives – and so it will be with us if we simply learn to trust the Lord, keep our focus on Him, to know that He is there with us. He is calling us to come to Him on the water and so He is there with us. And as long as we are there with the Lord, there is nothing at all to fear and every reason to hope because He is the One who will do it in us. We are not going to be doing the work on our own, but rather, we are with Him – and it is Him who is doing it all.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.