Where You Do Not Want to Go

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August 13, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

August 13, 2017
Matthew 14:22-33
Fr. George Smiga

God is good, and God loves us, and God intends to save us. Because of all of these positive truths, it is easy to imagine that our relationship to Jesus is one of comfort. We like to picture Jesus as the one who blesses the little children, feeds his sheep, and displays glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Although all these descriptions of Jesus are accurate, they are not the whole picture. This is what makes today’s gospel important, because it shows us that following Jesus is not only comforting. Sometimes it is terrifying.

In the story, Jesus commands Peter to get out of the boat and walk to him on the water. Now, walking on the water is not where you want to be. Who wants to be moving with hundreds of feet of cold, dark water below you and waves crashing on every side? But Jesus asks Peter to get out of the boat to make it clear to us that following him is not always a joyful journey. Sometimes, it is walking where you really do not want to go.

We all know the importance of family. But difficulties can arise in our family. A person can become hurt, dysfunctional, or bitter. We say to the Lord, “I do not want to deal with this every time the family comes together. My heart is broken over it, and I don’t see any easy way out.” Jesus says to us, “I know that it is discouraging and frightening, but I need you to walk to me through the storm.”

We begin to worry about a spouse or a parent as we all grow older. Then there is a fall or a stroke, and we realize that we have just become a caregiver. We say to Jesus, “I’m not ready for this. My plate is already full. I don’t know how I will be able to pull this off.” Jesus says, “I know it’s difficult. You will have to leave some things behind. But I need you to trust and to come to me.”

Whenever we experience a shock in our life, from a friend who betrays us, from a loved one who dies, we say to Jesus, “I can’t get over this. I’ve lost the joy of living. I don’t see any hope.” Jesus says, “I know how frightened you are. I know that it seems impossible. But what I need you to do now is step out of the boat.”

When Jesus asks us to go where we really do not want to go, he does not make us any easy promises. He does not assure us that our way will be simple or that we will never falter. Peter would be the first to testify that sinking is a part of the journey. When Jesus asks us to find our footing on the waves, the only assurance he gives us is that we will not have to find our way alone. The challenge of discipleship is to believe that his word and his presence will be enough for us.

Jesus is always with us. That should give us strength and comfort, as long as we remember that following him is not just walking on land. Sometimes, it is walking on water.

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