A Message from Father William

The essence of faith, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said, is that something meets us that is greater than anything we can think of for ourselves. In this Sunday’s Gospel, that is literally what happens to the disciples as they see Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). And Jesus summons them to faith – He calls them and us to leave behind our old ways of measuring things and see all according to this something greater that meets us. We should not be surprised that Christ often will come to us in ways that we least expect, as the Prophet Elijah found out in that tiny whispering sound (1Kings 19:9-13). And when such faith takes hold of us, we want everyone we know to share in it, as Saint Paul testifies today (Romans 9:1-5), and as Bishop Donald Hying has encouraged us in his evangelization initiative for our diocese, “Go Make Disciples,” which we’ve been reading about in the Catholic Herald each week and in recent editions of our parish bulletin.

In Matthew 14, the sea symbolizes this life and the instability of the visible world; the storm points to every kind of trial and difficulty that oppresses human beings, including personal struggles, pandemics and political tyrants who try to usurp our God-given freedoms, rights; the boat represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the Apostles. Jesus teaches us to bear life’s adversities courageously and to trust in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Peter shows such trust when he walks on the water, not by his own effort, but rather by God’s grace in which he believes. Peter knows, loves and serves God. Yet, when he doubts God’s providence and no longer looks at Jesus and is frightened by the gale and fails to trust in Jesus, he begins to sink in the sea of life’s troubles. So it is also for us, Pope Benedict has said: if we look only at ourselves, we become dependent on the winds and can no longer pass through storms on the waters of life (Angelus, August 7, 2011).

As Saint Peter witnesses and realizes, before we even seek the Lord or invoke Him, it is Jesus Himself who comes to meet us, who lowers Heaven to stretch out His hand to us and to raise us to Himself – what He expects of His disciples is that we totally trust in Him, really take hold of His hand, and believe in Him, love Him and serve Him.

Every time we come to Mass, we come to Jesus and He extends His hand to us, giving us His Word and literally giving us Himself in the Holy Eucharist, His true, real and substantial presence. Although we’re undeserving of such a gift, we receive Something Greater: the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ! We realize that the “something” is really a “someone,” Jesus Christ, the Only Savior of the world. He calls us to meet Him, crucified and risen from the dead, to humbly receive Him in His gift of prayer, and in His Church, Word and Sacraments – and in these encounters, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit changes us and instills in us the virtues of faith, hope and love, calling us to be saints, His holy witnesses in the world. He compels us to share the virtues with others, to be instruments of His love and mercy – for when we extend to others the love God offers us in Jesus Christ, our lives become wonderfully fulfilled. Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to pray for us as we celebrate this Saturday her Assumption into Heaven, for she is the perfect model of discipleship and total entrustment to God – so that in the midst of the anxieties, troubles and difficulties that churn up the sea of life today, our hearts may resonate with the reassuring words of Jesus Christ, Who says to us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” And may our faith, hope and love in Him grow each day.

With peace and prayers in Christ,
Fr. William Vernon