Is It Really You, Lord?

Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (A) –  Matthew 14:22-33

It’s a familiar scene from the Gospels.

The disciples are in a boat, struggling with wind and rough waters by night. Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. Peter cries out, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”. Jesus says, “Come”, and Peter comes. However, seeing the wind and waves, Peter loses heart. Beginning to sink, he cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus does do, and then gently chides him for his ‘little faith’.

We usually see Peter’s ‘little faith’ as being his fear in the face of wind and wave. We often hear homilies extolling Peter’s willingness to leave the safety of the boat in faith, but then telling us how Peter took his eyes off Jesus and then sunk. But what if there was another way to understand this story? What it Peter’s lack of faith happened earlier, before he even left the boat?  Continue reading “Is It Really You, Lord?”

Passing the Test

First Sunday of Lent (A): Matthew 4:1-11

We usually think of this Gospel story as an account of the temptations that Jesus faced while he was fasting in the wilderness: three ways in which Satan tries to drive a wedge between Jesus and the Father and pull him away from his mission. That is true, as far as it goes. But it misses the bigger picture – a picture which may seem puzzling, even troubling to us at first glance. But it is by taking in the bigger picture that we get a glimpse of how this Gospel story shines a bright light on a very important aspect of our own following of Christ.

We catch this bigger picture in the very first line: “At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). The word that is translated “tempted” is better translated “tested”. Although the devil may be doing the tempting, this is something that follows the Holy Spirit’s lead. In other words, this is part of the Father’s will. We can go further, and say that the Father is hereby testing Jesus in the wilderness.  Continue reading “Passing the Test”

Naming Jesus

Thursday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time: Mark 3:7-12

When I was a boy, I sometimes was the instigator among my siblings. I knew just what to say to get my brother and sister squabbling with each other, after which I would just walk away as if I had no idea why this just happened. With friends, I might say something deliberately to get a certain reaction from them, and then be too pleased with myself when I succeeded. Those who know me well will tell you that I haven’t completely outgrown this habit.

Keeping this “instigator” story in mind will help us better understand what otherwise might seem like an odd moment in the Gospel story – a moment that happened more than once during Jesus’ ministry. Mark sets the stage. Jesus’ reputation as a teacher and healer have become widespread by now. He is by the Sea of Galilee, and people are coming to him from all over Galilee and Judea, and even the Gentile lands beyond. Jesus needs to get into a boat to prevent the crowds from crushing him. Then comes the odd moment: And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.” He warned them sternly not to make him known. (Mark 3:11-12) Continue reading “Naming Jesus”