Keeping Focus on the Essentials

There are instances in Scripture where a story in the gospels really stands out above all the rest. These stories are often referred to in literature, jokes, as well as folklore and metaphors for millennia. One of these stories is when Jesus walks on water in Matthew 14. We know Jesus had a Divine and human nature, but I have always had a hard time fully distinguishing His human nature from His Divine nature. The fact is no person in all of history ever walked on water, turned water into wine, reproduced a few loaves and fishes that fed over 10,000 people, then as was prophesied thousands of years in advance, rose from the dead.   As much as we have a sacramental faith, we also have a very mystical faith.

A person would either need to be living like Rip Van Winkle falling asleep for a long time, or a Robinson Crusoe spending a generation away from civilization as a castaway not knowing the world changed to not take notice something is deeply disturbing with our surroundings. One would be very unaware to not notice that seismic changes are taking place in our culture today. However, there are many like Mr. Rip and Mr. Robinson in our midst.   There are more than we would like to imagine, as many are impervious to the changes coming our way.

How people will cope in our culture with the many issues of business no longer as usual will be interesting to watch. The issues ripping families, education, communities, and churches apart are legion. Tempers are short, and tolerance for differing opinions is shorter due to the extreme ideological divide. Everything with people is usually fine when they are flush with cash, and when that ends, it will get ugly fast. Historical examples of this fact are many.   We have seen a steady erosion of faith in the last generation and it is accelerating. What exactly the event will be to cause further chaos to completely unravel is unknown. With the culture devolving at such a rapid pace, it is anyone’s guess what the event will be. There is no shortage of possibilities. Where it will come from and what it will be is anyone’s guess. As someone said years ago, “Driving after a New Years Eve party is always a risk; there is a problem out there, you just don’t know what direction it’s coming from.”

In light of all the uncertainty, people need to have a plan for their family. The average American spends more time planning a vacation than planning for retirement. People also spend far more time on the entertainment and sports craze than in formation of their faith. I have heard many times that families don’t have the time for spiritual instruction of their children. However, I am amazed as I watch little Johnny and little Mary have dozens of hours per week for every form of entertainment and sports under the sun, all while being dropped off at ball fields and Tae Kwon Do facilities on Sunday mornings. The fact is, people don’t see that the spiritual formation of their children is important. Yet, when the little tyke gets in trouble later on in life, the parent wonders how it happened. We reap what we sow.

Matthew 14 is the story of Jesus walking on the water.   I cannot think of any other figure in world history where multiple people witnessed someone walking on water.   It was a night with turbulent seas, and Jesus was walking on the water to the apostle’s boat from another location.   At first the apostles said, “It is a ghost,” but then they realized it was not a ghost, but Jesus. To quell their fear, Jesus said, “Take heart, it is I, have no fear.” A normal reaction for people would be as the apostles.   Even the Blessed Mother, at the appearance of an angel telling her the future role she would assume, was also humanely startled. The angel then said, “Fear not, you have found favor with God.”

While in the boat, Peter was then summoned by Jesus to, “Come.” Peter then boldly stepped out in faith and walked on the water to Jesus. When Peter “Saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink.” Only when Peter’s focus was on Jesus did he do the miraculous. When the fear of the unknown gripped Peter, and he took his eyes off Jesus, was he fearful and in trouble.

Perfect loves casts out all fear. As we watch the turbulent seas batter people about from shore to shore, our safety lies in keeping our eyes on Jesus.   Sticking to the fundamentals and rubrics of the faith will ensure our families have safe passage.   It is in these things we find comfort, peace and solace as storms swirl around us. The Twin Pillars of the Eucharist and the Blessed Mother from St. John Bosco’s vision of safety for the Church in all ages are as relevant today as they were centuries ago — maybe more so.

Jesus, I Trust In You.

  • Well written, Ted! I can certainly identify through my 19 years serving the Lord that I have encountered many Rip Van Winkles in my travels. It is refreshing to be able to have a discussion with someone who is very aware of the times and what is possibly on the horizon. I was in KY two weekends ago and spoke with 70 people who are already clued in. Their comment to me was, “How wonderful to find a priest who is not afraid to speak the Truth and is aware of the signs around us.” Yes, when a bigger catastrophe than 9-11 strikes our country it may be too late for so many. For those who think that they are able or are walking on the water there may not be enough lifepreservers to grab hold of when that time comes. Now is the time to reach for Jesus and don’t let go. Remember, Eternity is Forever!

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