Sunday, August 13, 2017

Drowning/Not Drowning

19 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

#smh #faceplam  #headdesk  Remember?  Jesus breaking the third wall like Frank Underwood in House of Cards and saying, “There he goes again – sometimes Peter just doesn’t get it.”

I’ve always imagined the rest of the apostles them rolling their eyes at him, too.  Always the first one to speak up – like Hermione Grainger in the Harry Potter stories whose hand shot up so fast and so often her friends, even Ron and Harry, rolled their eyes at her.  ‘Oh! I know professor…call on me!  The teachers at Hogwarts began to roll their eyes at her, too – even when they knew she had the right answer.  But that’s the difference between St. Peter and Hermione Grainger.  He was always ready with an answer – but very often he was wrong.  ‘You can’t let them crucify you!’ Peter said.  Do you remember Jesus’ response?  ‘Get behind me Satan!’  Shot down! ‘It is GOOD that we are here!  We’ll build some shrines to commemorate what we just saw!’  This time, it was God Himself who seemed to roll His eyes:  ‘Hey – be quiet a minute.  That’s my Son!  Why don’t you try listening to him for a change?’  Talk about shot down!  

Peter often got it wrong, and in today’s gospel he gets it wrong big time.  He messed up the chance of a lifetime.  A chance to walk on the water – and he botched it!  What we typically see in this Gospel is just how much St. Peter got it wrong.  But maybe its time we take a look at the ways St. Peter got it right that stormy night.  After all, Peter was there, he took a risk, and he asked for help.

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Peter was there.  I find it hard to believe Peter didn’t know a storm was coming – he was a fisherman after all. But there he was anyway – right there in that boat – right there with his community of faith – gathered together and doing what they’d been asked to do even with a storm was brewing on the horizon.

I heard a story once about two car salesmen.  One was a natural – he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos.  The other guy was terrible.  He had coffee breath, his hair was always askew, he couldn’t keep up with the paperwork or the pricing strategies or even the inventory.  The natural salesman was so good, he’d show up for a few hours, sell a few cars and then go home.  He never worked weekends – he didn’t have to.  At the end of the year sales banquet everyone – everyone – was shocked that the horrible salesman took home the fattest bonus check.  The sales manager said, ‘I knew all along he’d sell more than the rest of you jokers.  He’s not be best salesman, but he showed up for work every day.’  

How good are we at showing up?  Do we use excuses about incense or Latin or liturgical style to keep us away?  Do we have better things to do than be a part of the ministry of the parish beyond weekend Mass?  Half the battle is showing up – and Peter always showed up.  He was there with his community of faith.  Peter was there…

…and he took a risk.  There he was, in a small boat crammed with tired, stinky, scared men.  The storm was raging – it probably seemed like they were just moments away from total destruction.  And to top it all off, they saw a ghost walking toward them on the water.  Not exactly the typical moment for taking a risk.  But that’s what Peter did.  ‘Lord…command me to come on the water.’

I was 15 years old when Kentucky started the lottery. What I remember most was thinking how perfect the slogan was; there’s no arguing with it.  You can’t win if you don’t play!  We don’t have to risk our money on the lottery – it’s perfectly OK if we don’t.  But it’s true:  there’s no chance of winning without playing – without taking a risk.  You can’t win if you don’t play; Peter played.  He took the risk.  He got out of the boat and began to walk on the water.

What risks have you taken lately regarding your faith?  What risks are we taking together as a parish?  If we’re showing up together, are we holding on for dear life, or are we stepping out into the miracles Jesus is inviting us to experience?  Peter took a chance – he was there, he took a risk…

...and he asked for help.  We all know Peter sank because he was afraid – I think that’s all we ever remember about this story because, like Peter, we often let our own fears become bigger and more powerful than our faith.  But what Peter does when he begins to drown is so much more important than his mistake – he cried out for help!  If only you and I were as ready to ask for help when we’re sinking!

There were two of them hanging there, remember?  Equally guilty – equally deserving of death.  Two criminals hanging there with Jesus on Calvary.  Only one of them died with the hope of life beyond the pain.  What was the difference?  The ‘good thief’ asked Jesus for help.

When was the last time you asked for help?  ‘Bless me father, for I have sinned…’  When was the last time you said those words in the confessional.  ‘I just don’t know how to pray anymore…can you help me?’  When was the last time you asked for help?  ‘I don’t know how to walk and talk with Jesus like a real honest to goodness friend.  Can you help me?  Peter would have drowned that stormy night if he hadn’t asked for help.  Our faith will die, too, if we don’t learn to cry out for help.  Peter showed up, he took a risk, and he asked for help.

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We can learn a lot from St. Peter.  All of us have been in Peter’s shoes.  What I love about this story is that it sums up Peter perfectly.  He was always there – right in the middle of things.  He always showed up.  Sometimes he made a fool of himself, sometimes he ran off at the mouth and got the crazy eye roll and rebuke for it.  But it didn’t stop him – he was always there, and he was always a risk taker.  Even after he had denied Jesus three times, he took a risk and ran right back to Jesus to let Him restore their relationship.  He never seemed to have trouble asking for help.  

Peter tried a lot – and he failed a lot – but it didn’t stop him.  I think that’s because he learned something when he took those few amazing steps on the water.  What about you?  Are you here – really here?  Are you really with us in our parish’s journey of faith and mission to spread the Gospel and save souls?  Are you stepping out of the boat – are we taking any risks together?  What risk is Jesus inviting you to take today?  Don’t let fear or uncertainty stop you – you won’t drown.  Because every time we remember Peter, and cry out for help, we’ll find exactly what he found:  Jesus stretching out His hand and catching us.

Peter was there, he took a risk, and he cried out for help.  Lord, teach us to be more like Peter!

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