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Looking closely at what Our Lord preached, you see that He asked His disciples to follow in His footsteps, even when this entailed doing things that seemed humanly impossible — like walking on water. Jesus said, "'Come.' Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus" (Matthew 14:23–36).
As descendants of the disciples, we are called to walk on water. Jesus calls us out of the safety of the boat and encourages us to follow Him in faith and trust, walking on water with Him buoying us with care as we make our way across the waves.
Here, I'm speaking metaphorically, but I'm also speaking straightforwardly from my own experience.
Examples of nearly impossible things Jesus demands of us as His disciples include trusting in God's providence in good times as well as in bad, praying for enemies as well as friends, and even forgiving the man who rapes you or your sister.
Doing what Jesus demands is impossible for us on a purely human level, but with God's grace and blessings, all things become possible. Remember how surprised the disciples were when Jesus said, "It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." But Jesus taught them: "For human beings, this is impossible, but for God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:23–26).
The image of Peter walking on the water toward Jesus came to mind when I took a trip to Texas last month. I went to visit one of my nephews — a young man who recently moved his well-established family and business from Southern California to Texas. Despite protestations from family and friends against the move, my nephew took the plunge, and now both his family and business are doing well in the Lone Star State.
While I was in Texas with my nephew, I met other families who had also taken the plunge. At a potluck gathering, I met other newly arrived families. Many were blow-ins from blue states and had recently relocated to protect their families and businesses and make better lives for themselves. One family emigrated legally from Canada, with the father lamenting, "Canada has no future under Trudeau."
All these new Texans had one thing in common: They overcame their fear of leaving the safety of their boat to 'walk on water.' Not one of the families I talked with regretted their decision to get out of the boat, so to speak, and relocate. In fact, most reported how they are encouraging other family members and friends, left behind in blue states, to follow their lead and make the same move.
One family from San Diego talked about how pleasant it was to now own a small ranch and raise chicks and eggs for sale. It was a little side business that was not permitted in California and that provided a great lesson on animal husbandry for their small children.
The Canadian family reported how happy they were to be able to talk freely once again in public about matters of faith and politics. In Canada, they said they could not openly denounce the evils of abortion and euthanasia without fear of serious repercussions.
Walking on water is possible, but only for those who trust in God and His divine providence.
During His preaching to the disciples, Our Lord consistently emphasized the importance of trusting in Him and in God's goodness. Jesus said about the lilies of the field: "Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them" (Luke 12:27).
God takes care of all His creatures, and for us, as creatures made in His own image and likeness, He will provide for all of our needs if we but ask Him. So we should humbly ask for His help for our day-to-day needs.
Texas, unlike the Holy Land, does not have wild lilies growing in profusion. But it does have Black-eyed Susans flowering en masse along the rural roadways I traveled. They are a beautiful sight to behold and make the Texas back roads splendid reminders of God's providence.
To walk on water — to trust in God completely — means looking forward, not behind. To make any progress in spiritual life, a man can't always look back over his shoulder. If you're looking at the past, how can you find the right path in front of you?
When Lot and his family fled Sodom and Gomorrah, as the biblical story goes, "Lot's wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:1-29).
What is most important is what a man does with the challenges that come his way, as well as the graces that God affords him. As Jesus said: "No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
If you have ever done any plowing — or rototilling, for that matter — when prepping a garden in the spring, you quickly realize that much of what is unearthed in this process of plowing is just muck and decay, some of it even rotten and stinky. It's actually quite amazing how soil, once plowed and pulverized, with a few seeds and sunshine added, can turn a piece of nondescript ground into food over time.
The point of Jesus using this metaphor from farming is that spending any time looking backward and analyzing the dead components of what was unearthed in the process of plowing is a big waste of time.
As repeatedly stated by Our Lord in the course of His active ministry, "the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). There is no time to waste, looking back and lamenting what was. We must live in the present and accept the graces He gives for the challenges of the day.
Lamentably, many men and women get stuck in the past, and instead of moving forward in trust and in faith with God, they remain stagnant spiritually. Instead of walking on water, they founder.
The good news is that, like St. Peter, Our Lord will give us the graces needed to do His most holy will. In one sense, this is truly easy. It's just a matter of humbly asking Jesus for the graces needed to walk on water.
When I was an 18-year-old seminarian, I was sexually abused by a priest. In the aftermath of this sexual abuse, I walked away from my vocation and quit the seminary — just jettisoning Christ's call to the priesthood. This was not an unexpected reaction to the abuse, even though Our Lord had nothing to do with the abuse, or for that matter, the priest who abused me.
For almost a decade, I looked back, wallowing in self-pity and lamenting what might have been if I had not been abused. But, over time, God gave me the grace to heal and, eventually, reconsider His call. And so I did. I got out of the boat, re-enrolled in seminary and was ordained a priest. This was over 24 years ago! Praise Our Lord!
I would be lying to say that going back to the seminary after being raped by a priest was possible on a purely human level. It was not. It was made possible by God, Who gave me the graces necessary to get over the hurt and degradation and get back on track with doing His will, not mine.
Some folks may consider God's parting of the Red Sea as one of His greatest miracles. Personally, I see going back to the seminary after being abused by a priest right up there as one of the great miracles, if not the greatest, because I experienced this miracle.
Our Lord sometimes asks us to do what's impossible! Don't be afraid to follow St. Peter's example. God will give you the graces needed to do His most holy will.
Give it a try; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain — including eternal life.