Trust in Jesus

Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid (Matthew 14:27).” Jesus speaks these comforting words to the disciples who were overwhelmed while riding in the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee.

When one goes out on the Sea of Galilee during the day it seems like a large lake that could not possibly be intimidating for one to sail across in a small boat. However, at night it gets really dark and the winds often blow fiercely down the mountains toward the sea causing dangerous conditions.

The disciples were returning from the feeding of the thousands to the town of Capernaum by boat and got overconfident on sailing a familiar route but at an unfamiliar timenight. All of a sudden rather than navigating familiar waters they found themselves a few miles off shore and in a situation, that was out of their control.

Jesus enters into the out of control situation by demonstrating His Lordship and mastery over creation as He walks upon the troubled waters. From His path upon the churning and tumultuous sea, Jesus speaks into the fears of the disciples by encouraging them to set their fears aside and trust. Placing his faith in Jesus Peter states, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water (Matthew 14:28).” Jesus beckons for Peter to walk toward Him across the agitated waters, as Peter’s faith is strong he walks towards the Lord, as he focuses on himself Peter begins to sink, leading him to cry out, “Lord save me!” Jesus then says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt (Matthew 14:31).”

This Gospel account is describing our life in Christ. Many people who believe in Christ have storms or difficulties in life. It can be our intention before the storm to act on our own when life is going great and all the blessings are coming our way. Even thinking to ourselves during the good times in life that down the road we will give back to the Church or Community as a sign of gratitude. But how quickly can our fortune change and we find our health failing or money running short or even people we love getting sick and dying.

During the storms of life do we cower in fear on the ship of our own making and forget that Jesus is in our midst? Or do we establish a relationship of trust through daily prayer and regular service of God’s people that helps form us to call upon Jesus when we are getting rocked by life’s challenges and difficulties?

Jesus Himself identifies that area that is weak in this whole situation and that is faith. If we follow Jesus in what He says and does then we must be willing to trust in Him when life challenges us. We cannot afford to be “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose what they want to hear and believe in. Our souls are in real jeopardy if we ignore Jesus in the feel-good parts of our life and then curse Him or whine for Him in the storms of our life.

Rather than seeking Jesus when it is convenient for us, we need to be honest and look at the gift of faith we have received and say yes, I am living my life with complete trust in the Lord or no I only relate to Jesus when life gets crazy. If you find yourself lacking in trust in Jesus, take time this week to examine your life and identify the places where faith needs some encouragement and also where priorities need to be shifted so that Jesus is first in life.

 

God’s Peace

“Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy and my burden light (Matthew 11:29-30).”

On a February night, some years ago, I remember getting a call from the nursing home that a woman was actively dying. Driving to the nursing home at about 9pm, I remember praying for God to bring her peace. As I got to the room, I was joined by a nurse in praying for the woman. She was given the Sacrament of the Sick (or Extreme Unction) and the Litany of Saints was sung. The nurse and I each took a hand of the woman and then began praying the rosary. As we prayed the fourth Sorrowful Mystery – The Carrying of the Cross – the woman passed away. We paused in our praying of the rosary and called the head nurse to take the woman’s vitals to see if she indeed passed on. The nurse confirmed that the woman had passed away and the rosary was finished and the prayers for the dead were begun.

That night was a powerful night for me as a priest. As I reflect on that sacred time I recall that during the prayers for the sick the Gospel from Matthew that the Church offers to us for reflection this weekend was read to the woman. As I pray through this Gospel this week I am reminded of the truth that Jesus wants to take our burdens and make our lives peaceful.

So often at the hour of death I encounter people who are restless or seemingly working through something before they are able to pass from this world. As a priest when I am with them and see them in this condition I usually pray with them and at the end of the prayer give them permission to take the hand of Jesus and go with Him and Mary into the next life. There are many times where the person almost seems to stop fighting and a relaxed look comes over them and one can see a transformation to a peaceful state and shortly after that they breathe their last.

I see this also with people in our parish area who are struggling with financial burdens or relationship issues or stress from work or school. When we find ourselves tired or agitated from having to do everything on our own power, we need to let go, surrender, and place our burdens into the hands of Jesus. He wants to lighten our loads in life, not just at the hour of death, but every day.

At times, I struggle with the sin of pride which leads to self-reliance expressed as, “I can do it on my own.” And when I try to do things on my own power I usually get frustrated and filled with anger or bitterness. As Christians, we are meant to practice Christ-reliance, which is placing our total trust in Jesus and surrender the burdens of our worries and fears into His care.

What are the burdens you carry? Are you surrendering them into the hands of Christ? How does Jesus speak to you as He shares in your burdens?

The Way to a New Chapter of Life

We are not a powerless victim of the past and of our former life. With God’s grace we can always transcend the impact of the past through the ideals which we hope to realize in the future.

In the world of deception, although it is difficult to trust others because of bad experiences in the past, the ideal of growing toward a more healthy relationship will have a  positive impact on the way we relate to others.

Certainly it  will not happen over night. Over a period of time the perception of others will gradually change. The main thing about change is that we must decide to grow toward a more trusting presence to God, supported by prayer. This decision is essential and it is the beginning of our new life.

Our Lives Have God’s Quality

When the faucet leaks, we get a plumber. When the car refuses to start, we fetch a mechanic. When a child feels sick we rush him to the hospital. Living in an environment where services are available we are quick to run for help. Do we turn to God? Is there a place for God in all these?

Modern people do not see the need for God. A philosopher keenly observes that even today Christianity is not tried out yet. We must return to God. Why do we not say a prayer for the plumber to fix the leaking faucet, for the mechanic to repair the car, and for the physician to diagnose the right problems?

The day should begin with trust in God and the day should close with gratitude to God. If our daily life is moving along without God, we strip life of its beauty. St. Paul said, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong.” Without God and love life is impoverished. Our lives must have God’s quality.