19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Patrick Coldricks, SJ, broadcast from Martyrs' Shrine
This Week's Spiritual Reflection
JESUS WALKS ON THE WATER
At Jesus’ time, among the Jews, the sea represented an evil force. Several psalms make victory over the sea a sign of the power of God. The power of God is also manifested when Jesus walked on the waters. Among the first Christians, subjected to all kinds of difficulties, this story is a call to faith and trust, for the Lord is always present to his community. The COVID-19 pandemic might be a great difficulty that we encounter. It can cause all kinds of fears: getting very sick or spreading the virus around us, losing the quality of life, moving away from loved ones, having to adjust to restrictive rules, changing habits... This Gospel and this pandemic make me reflect on fear and faith. There is a fear that God has placed in human beings and which belongs to our nature.
This is what we see in the disciples, shaken by the storm of the night. This fear is a force that binds humans to their very being, and which makes them fear losing their soul and their body. By this fear, he clings to life and fears anything that could corrupt and ruin them, feeling a repulsion towards non-being. This fear corresponds to the instinct of life, to the tendency we have to persevere in being and to perpetuate our existence. This fear is good, but it must be overcome. This fear is a righteous figure of a higher fear, the fear of God, which helps man to cling to God. This is a more basic fear. It is the fear of no longer being attached to what is most solid in us: God. But fear might come also from our lack of faith which is a consequence of the sin of pride. The human puts his confidence only in his owns strengths. And this is Peter’s fear when he was drowning into the sea. So, Jesus intervened by giving Peter a hand. Jesus thus shows that God is always present and supports us deeply in being despite all the forces that could cause us to take a sip of saltwater or to sink in the bottom of the sea.
What we need more than ever is this strength of the faith. Whoever firmly believes in God and his Providence is certain to receive from Him in all circumstances help and protection, and no longer has to fear any circumstances, any adversary whatsoever, nor a coronavirus, nor death itself. It is easy to say. But this was the testimony of the Canadians Martyrs. It is not faith itself that delivers us from fear, but God who, in response to this faith, gives us help.
This helps, in the faith that God can give us, and in the hope that He will give it to us, we must ask for it in prayer. A prayer made with a humble heart enables us to be united with God and to benefit from his help. I will end this reflection by paraphrasing words from St. Paul that we heard last Sunday. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? The night, the sea, the wind, the waves? For I am convinced that neither will COVID-19 be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Fr. Louis-Martin Cloutier, SJ