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WHEN THE OUTSTRETCHED HAND COMES – 19th Sunday of ordinary time, Year A

At the times when the Lord insists we “get into the boat and precede him to the other side” we have to remember He knows we are on the sea of life and what we have, are, and will experience. He is not absent from us, although His presence can be shielded from us, especially by some experiences of life.

Many waves come into our lives through other people. And we no doubt bring waves to others too. When we sin we create for ourselves dangerous waves on the sea of life. Even these crises of our own design the Lord will save us from if we renounce the sin. Peter’s prayer “Lord, save me!” is the only prayer some may be able to pray. Whatever circumstances we are in – whether it’s a challenge to do good, a discouraging setback in our work, a sickness, or a success, a healing, a financial hardship, a troubled relationship, or an injury from someone – the Lord has us in His vision and is constantly calling us to come across the waves in faith toward Him. The waves look different standing outside of them, than they do to one who is in the midst of them. Sometimes we can see it is necessary for others to be in the waves! This is especially true if we have survived the same waves.

Faith is tested and refined through many life experiences and especially the trying and difficult ones. Growth in faith and confidence often takes place through them. It’s easy to make an act of faith, courage, and confidence when the waves on the sea of our life are calm and everything is clearly seen. The spiritual giants of faith, such as St. Peter, make their acts of faith in critical and testing moments. That is not to say they are perfect acts of faith. If we wait till we are perfect to do anything, we’ll never get the opportunity! Jesus knows the best acts of faith in Him are the ones made in the waves, when everything is not clear, and our vision is clouded by fear.

Jesus remains just beyond the waves, which means to reach Him we have to go through and across to Him in faith. Knowing our fears, He sends His Word across to us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid”. This sense of the Lord’s unseen presence, which we call faith, allows us to move toward Jesus in trials, testing, persecutions, temptations, sufferings, fatigue, sickness and whatever other wave we face. In the midst of them the grace of God can lead us to say: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”. “Come” is the response of the Lord on the sea of our life. Like Peter, we can falter. We can look around at all the waves and become afraid. Then we begin to sink into the waves making them seem greater, and we create new ones of discouragement, anxiety and panic. If one has “left the boat” at that time in the initial act of faith as Peter did there is no turning back. It can be very lonely on the sea with no boat, life preserver, and rough tides. The only prayer possible is “Lord, save me!” The Lord answers even weak faith, and somehow at the moment of abandonment, He stretches out His hand to rescue. When He rescued Peter, whom he called to have strong faith, He told him what he already knew – “O you of little faith…” He asked him as He asks us – “…why did you doubt?”

The outstretched hand of the Lord only comes after, and when, we make the act of faith and move out of the boat. At the time we decide to act – even in weakness and fear – the Lord supplies us with the power – the outstretched hand – to complete the work. In making some acts of faith, a delayed reaction can set in when we realize the difficulty of the circumstances in which we have made an act of faith. When Peter took his eyes off the Lord and looked only at the circumstances of the waves, he began to falter in fear. We all know that experience!

We can know well the waves are there, but we need to keep our eyes of faith focused on the Lord. The strong waves can carry us toward the Lord more swiftly. So ride the waves in faith! They are not going to lead to your drowning and will eventually die down. “After they got into the boat, the wind died down.” Those who were in the boat showed Him reverence declaring, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

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