The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - 7 August 2011

Every child loves to be in the water.  Apparently, this may well have something to do with the fact that for nine months they have enjoyed the safety of the womb where they have floated in the intimacy of their mother's body.  Water recalls this safe experience.

And yet, almost every child, at some stage, will have the experience of being knocked over by a wave; of swallowing too much water; of becoming scared and disoriented in the water.  This fright undermines dramatically the earlier experience of safety and creates an ambiguous attitude to water.  Yes, water is great fun.  But it is also true that water is something to be cautious of, since it only partially supports our weight and is also in constant motion.  In some ways this is part of the tension between reason and experience.  Our experience tells us that water is enjoyable and can be safe while our reason tells us that water can be threatening and unsafe.  Most of us manage to approach water with a balance of both of these attitudes.

In today's gospel passage Peter is caught in this dilemma.  On the one hand he knows that he just cannot walk on the water while on the other hand he knows (sort of) that he can rely on Jesus to save him if he begins to drown.  To rely on Jesus, however, he has to trust him.  Trust is one of those things that we simply cannot do in theory.  The only way to trust someone is to trust them.  If we think we can trust someone partially we are actually fooling ourselves since we are, in fact, thinking that we cannot fully trust them.

Today's gospel is about trust.  Trust is not easy.  We are generally conditioned by our experience to be very selective about those we trust and yet, the message, or rather the challenge, of today's gospel is that we are called to trust Jesus.  We are unlikely to be invited to walk on water but we are certainly called to forgive others who have hurt us.  We are challenged to identify ourselves with those society would forget.  We are sent to denounce injustice and oppression.  All of these things we are supposed to do while trusting that we are acting in God's name and also trusting that everything will be all right.

It is certainly a tall order.  We are called to be exceptional people.

Let us not loose sight of the fact that we are already exceptional people.  We are exceptional because we believe these things are important despite the fact that society tells us to be selfish and self-preserving.  We are already exceptional people because we try, however imperfectly, to enact these things despite the fact that they sometimes work out less than perfectly.  We are already exceptional people because these are the values we try to pass on to others despite the fact that we sometimes feel that we are fighting a losing battle.

Today's gospel reminds us that we are not expected to be exceptional people on our own.  Jesus is with us.  We are reminded that even in the seemingly hopeless situation of trying to walk on the water, Jesus is with us.  We are challenged to trust that even though the waves are crashing around us, Jesus is with us.


Article posted on 6th of August 2011

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