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Conditional Faith

A fisherman was fishing in an open sea, when suddenly a violent storm blew up.  As the small boat was being tossed amidst the wind and sea, the fisherman thought that surely this would be the last day of his life. 

Suddenly he saw Jesus walking toward him on the water.  Remembering today’s Gospel passage, the fisherman called out, “Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.”

After a moment, the fisherman ventured out of the boat walking on the water.  When he came close to Jesus, Jesus said, “You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?”

“Lord,” said the fisherman, “I did not doubt. I trusted you.  I came walking on the water!”

“Then, why the life-jacket?”  asked Jesus.

“Oh that,” said the fisherman looking at his yellow life-jacket, “that was just in case.”

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This little story also tells us something about ourselves.  Perhaps many of us are like the fisherman.  It is not that we have no faith.  Rather, oftentimes our faith is found wanting.  We have our own “just in case” – the “anting-antings,” lucky charms, quack faith-healers, fortune-tellers, horoscopes, feng-sui, and the like. 

Or, some go to church and receive Holy Communion on Sundays, but they also go to the Buddhist and Taoist temples to consult their fortunes on other days.  And they meticulously follow the advice of feng-sui masters to avoid bad luck.

A number of people choose certain days for weddings and baptisms because these are “good days” according to the feng sui. They avoid certain days because these are “bad days.” 

I always tell them I do not believe in those “good days” and “bad days.  God did not create any bad days.  All days and time created by God are good. 

The Book of Genesis tells us at the end of each day of creation  “God saw how good it was…” (Genesis 1:10)

Some Catholics hang on to miracles.  They believe because they have seen a miracle – like Peter,  who should have relied only on the words of Jesus, “It is I; have no fear.”  Instead Peter wanted to test Jesus by walking on the water. 

For such Christians, miracles are a crutch to walk with.  They will ask for a miracle as a condition for faith.  I will believe if…   But a true believer sees miracles because he believes, which is exactly the opposite.   

The best example of faith is that of Abraham and Our Blessed Mother.  God asked Abraham to leave his homeland and his security without telling him where to go.  It was just “to a land that I will show you.”  Abraham did not ask for a miracle before believing.  He first believed, left his homeland and went forth into the unknown, relying solely on the word of God – overcoming human risk by his trust in God.

Mary of Nazareth, upon being told that she was to bear a son by the power of the Holy Spirit answered, “Yes, be it done to me according to your word.”  This she uttered in spite of the possible dreadful consequences of being rejected by Joseph, and of being stoned to death by the public.

The risk of faith arises precisely when the ground seems to disappear under our feet, like what happens during great earthquakes, and we are for a moment suspended over a vacuum…   Then indeed the only appropriate shout is that of Peter, “Lord, save me!”  When Peter stopped trusting Jesus and paid attention to the wind and the waves, he sank. 

When we concentrate on our problems and forget to lift them up to the Lord, we too sink in frustration and despair.  The secret of overcoming our difficulties is to trust in the Lord at all times, since the name of Jesus means “Savior,” we can rely on him to save us.

In today’s Gospel story, when Jesus invites Peter to walk to him on the water, Peter makes a good start, but then falters and begins to sink.  Jesus then stretches out his hand to Peter and brings him to safety.

Jesus is consistently portrayed as stretching out his hand.  He cures the sick by stretching out his hand to touch them, makes the lame walk, heals lepers with a touch.  He feeds the multitude and turns water into wine for an embarrassed host.  He consoles the sorrowful, instructs the ignorant, and challenges the narrow-minded, and those of little faith. 

Jesus is portrayed as a “man for others.”  We therefore cannot understand Christianity, or our practice of it in any other way.  We are authentically “Christian” in proportion to how well we reflect Jesus in our own life and actions. 

As he stretched out his hands to others, we are called to do no less.  Whatever our work and occupation, as Christians we are called to be “persons for others,” to do something helpful to others – to stretch out our hands to others in need.

Very often we tend to underestimate our capacity to be helpful, or we are at a loss as to how we can assist others.  We have the power to do so much good, and with that good our happiness comes back on ourselves and can enhance it.  There are countless ways we can extend our hands to others such as through our kind words, compliments, smiles, words of love and care, understanding, or sympathy.                   Fr. John Powell tells of a grade-two boy, who wrote a note to his grouchy teacher, “If you’re feeling good about yourself, please inform your face.”

There’s a saying: “Some people bring happiness wherever they go.  Some people bring happiness whenever they go!”

If people leave your presence feeling uplifted, or a little better about themselves for having met you, you are a “practicing” Christian.  If they can walk a little taller or have a better outlook on life for having spoken with you, you are fulfilling your calling in an exemplary way. 

It’s the little things that count in following Jesus.  Imitate the Lord in his gestures.  Make it a habit to stretch out your hand.

 

 

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