God Never Abandons Us
Today’s Gospel is the well-known story of the disciples in a boat battling against a stormy sea when JESUS suddenly comes walking towards them on the water and says, “Courage! It is I! Don’t be afraid.” The disciples are terrified and think they are seeing a ghost. But the ever-impulsive Peter takes the matter into his own hands and starts to walk out towards JESUS on the stormy waters, but then after a few steps he takes his eyes off JESUS and begins to sink. He cries out, “Lord, save me!” JESUS holds His hand out to Peter and says, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Now this Gospel story isn’t merely an event from the past. It continues to happen over and over again throughout history. And the point of it is that just because we have to endure trials it doesn’t mean we have been abandoned by God. This applies to the Church and to all of us as individuals. Trials and sufferings make us grow and they can make us stronger. So, when we have to endure trials, and we all have to at some point in our lives, it is good to ask ourselves, “What is God trying to say to me here? What can I learn from it?”
One of the things we can always learn from a trial is that we get through it by the grace of God and not by our own strength. Compare Peter in this Gospel to what he came to be later on. He went through a lot and by the time the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles at Pentecost he was a different man. In the Gospel, Peter denies Our Lord three times, but then later on in the Acts of the Apostles he twice endured prison for preaching the Gospel. All the Apostles felt privileged to be able to suffer for JESUS. St Paul tells us in Second Corinthians, how he was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, cold and naked, all for the spread of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).
St John Vianney, also known as the Curé of Ars (1786-1859), whose feast we celebrated last week couldn’t pass his exams to become a priest. In the end, by much prayer, by God’s grace and a very helpful priest he did just enough to be ordained, but even then he was ordained more for his holiness and virtue than for any qualifications. John became one of the greatest Confessors in the history of the Church, and he is now Patron Saint of Parish Priests!
So when we have to go through a trial let us abandon ourselves to JESUS as the saints did. Let us learn to trust Him now in these difficult times and allow His grace to work on us so as we become the human beings He intends us to be.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC