Daily Reflection
August 8th, 2000
John O'Keefe
Theology Department
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Saint Dominic, priest - Memorial 
Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22
Psalms 102:16-21, 29, 22-23
Matthew 14:22-36, or Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14

I cannot read this gospel without thinking of the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back.  At one point Yoda suggests to Luke Skywalker that he use the Force to extract his crashed fighter from a swamp.  Luke looks at the fighter, assesses its size, and declares it to be too large.  Yoda pushes him, and, finally, Luke says, “I’ll try.”  To this Yoda retorts, “try not, do or do not.”  In the end Luke fails because he does not believe enough.  In today’s gospel text, Peter is not unlike Luke Skywalker.  Because Jesus has called him and he has responded, Peter is able, at first to walk upon the water, but his faith fails him and he sinks into the stormy sea:  he did not believe enough. 

At a literal level one might say merely that Peter failed to walk on the water.  This is saying quite a bit, but I think the story can also be read as an allegory of our own experience.  Our lives are full of storms and struggles.  When we keep our eyes on the Lord, we are fine, but too often we are distracted by the overwhelming size of the storm and the ferocity of the wind and waves.  We easily lose heart:  God will never deliver us from this.  But, as the reading from Jeremiah hints, we can trust that God will deliver us from every storm because God has a record of fulfilled promises.  The people about whom Jeremiah writes were in a terrible state, broken, bruised, and afflicted with guilt because of their sin, but God “summoned” them into his presence and made them his people anyway.  And so the psalmist rightly sings, “the Lord will build up Zion again.”

Perhaps there is one more thing here.  On the one hand we are likely, like Peter and Luke Skywalker, to experience many episodes where our faith turns out to be inadequate.  Yet, on the other hand, like so many things in the Christian life, the solution may be as simple as turning to the witness of the Lord himself.  He, before he walked on the water, had gone “up the mountain by himself to pray.”  The theological tradition reminds us that Jesus, while being the “exact imprint of God’s very being” (Heb 1.3) was also fully and completely human.  He walked on water not as a god but as a person of faith who trusted absolutely in the power of the Father.  Perhaps, by spending time in prayer, we too might learn to trust as Jesus trusted.

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