from St Faith's
Fr Neil Kelley, August
Some years ago I went on holiday with a friend to Turkey. The coach
dropped us off outside our hotel. Major problem. My friend Tom has a
fear of water, so much so, that he couldn’t walk over the very small
bridge to the hotel as it meant walking over water. I suggested a large
gin and tonic first – still he had problems. We were found another
Some of you may recall that in the centre of London, right in the heart
of the City’s financial district, a new bridge for pedestrians was
built for the Millennium – to be named appropriately the Millennium
Bridge! It looked beautiful and linked St Paul’s Cathedral with the new
Tate Gallery of Modern Art. However, when it first opened to the public
the bridge wobbled and it was closed for over a year while engineers
restructured it so it wouldn’t wobble any more. One reason given by
engineers was that people were walking the wrong way!!
Images of boats, water, and rough seas are popular in the Bible!
Today’s Gospel is one of the most graphic stories we have of Jesus’
life. But it is more about Peter walking on the water than about Jesus.
What did Peter really think he was doing, climbing out of the boat and
walking towards what he at first thought was a ghost?
Some people think that, if you have enough faith, life will be all
plain sailing. I don’t know which planet these people live on! But at
some time or other we all face difficult and trying circumstances and
situations in our lives. Faith does not shield us from the harsh knocks
of life. At those times it is as if the Lord is asking us to walk on
water, or that’s how it feels. But at the same time he stretches out
his hand and holds us up. Elijah in the first reading was a great man
of faith. He was being persecuted and threatened with death and he
sought refuge and protection in a cave. A beaten and broken man, he
just wanted to die. However, in the cave he experienced the presence of
God and was strengthened by that experience to carry on. He found God,
not in the fire or the earthquake, but in the still small voice – the
still small voice of calm.
To live by faith means to trust God and to rely on God’s power. God
won’t carry us but he will hold us up if we let go. We have to take the
risk, only then can God help us.
Peter knew that whatever Jesus commanded was possible. It was really a
way of testing faith. They had all just seen him cure people, teach
them, feed 5,000 people) with a little bread and fish. Peter has no
doubt that what Jesus commands will happen. But the command needs a
response, and we learn that the success of the response depends on his
faith. Peter had no choice but to leave the boat and risk his life to
learn perhaps the most valuable lesson: the realisation of both his own
weakness and the power of Jesus. If Peter stayed in the boat his faith
would have been worthless and never tested. We need to take on board
that lesson too – our own weakness versus the power of Jesus.
The sea is often used as a metaphor for life. Perhaps the Gospel is
saying that no matter how dark life might be, and no matter how high
the waves are or how rough the sea, Jesus is still able to reach us and
is still able to lift us out of life's trauma, if only we trust him
totally and keep our eyes fixed on him. God does not necessarily work
by way of miracles in our lives. He probably doesn't want us walking on
water. He simply assures us he will be with us always. And when our
faith is weak or when it goes completely, we can still be like Peter
and still call out: “Lord, save me!”
There is no place and no situation where Jesus is not with us. The
presence of Christ in our lives is the assurance our faith gives. The
presence of evil and suffering does not mean the absence of God.
For our religion is not about magical powers, magic spells performed
Sunday by Sunday, but about a relationship, lived in love, with the
Some years ago I heard a talk from a priest who explained how he
learned to say his prayers on the London Underground. Not the first
place you think of to find peace and quiet. No, he said; it is hell
sometimes. The silence is within – and you need to dig deep to find it.
But it is there. “Lead us heavenly Father, lead us, o’er the world’s
tempestuous seas”, we sing. Yes, life feels more stormy than calm for
many of us most of the time! We have to find that still small voice of
calm within for when we connect with that, we grow in strength. We
ignore searching for that still small voice at our peril!
Perhaps these words are appropriate today in conclusion?
The Lord is my Pilot: I shall not drift.
He lighteth me across the dark water,
He steereth me in the dark channels,
He keepeth my log,
He guideth me by the Star of Holiness for his name’s sake;
Yea, though I sail amid the thunder and tempests of life,
I shall dread no danger, for thou art with me;
Thy love and thy care, they shelter me,
Though preparest a harbour before me in the homeland of Eternity:
Thou hast anointed the waves with oil, my ship rideth calmly,
Surely sunlight and starlight shall favour me in the voyage I take,
And I will rest in the Port of my God forever.
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