Standing on Water

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 9, 2020

See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons


When I was a child, my family and I went to visit my great-uncle in New Hampshire.

He had this rustic little house, right on a lake.

So of course, right after dinner, he took us three boys out in his rowboat.

It was a beautiful evening.  The fading light of day rippled on the water.  All of these lily pads calmly drifted in the wake of our paddles.

But then everything changed.

Out of nowhere, these dark ominous clouds began to roll in menacingly on the horizon.  The wind began to grow stronger and stronger.

Neighbors began to yell to my great-uncle.  Billy, get those kids to shore.

And suddenly, I began to panic.

I just kept looking to shore for my mom and dad.  And I could see them.  But they seemed so far away.

Then the rain began to fall.  In heavy sheets.  Obscuring sight and sound.

And though I know we safely got to the dock and we were quickly whisked back into the warm house, where everyone was laughing and shaking their heads. 

I still never forgot the genuine terror to be trapped on open water in the middle of a storm.

I think it is why I have never had trouble picturing this scene or feeling the fear of the disciples.

For I’d been there.

And not just on the rowboat.

For I have endured my share of storms.  Some quick bursts of torrential downpours.  Others slow-moving fronts that have battered me for months and years.  Grief.  Depression.  Betrayal.  Guilt.  Shame.  Rejection.  Failure.

And I know I am not alone.

I look out at this congregation and know that each and every one of us have weathered storms of all shapes and sizes.

The marriage that broke apart.  The years of conflict between our parents.  The violence at the hands of the one who was supposed to love us unconditionally.  The painful cycle of infertility and miscarriages.

The terminal diagnosis.  The slow theft of altezheimers.  The inoperable tumor.  

The bank account that is always overdrawn.  The criminal record that clings to us.  The jobs we’ve lost and been denied.

The daily weight that comes from being black in a society that says you will always be less than.  The fear that comes with saying I’m gay or trans in a society that tries to pretend you don’t exist.  The resounding catcalls that objectify each woman just trying to walk to work or grab lunch with friends.

Every mother who has clutched the body of her child, murdered by a gang or the state,  lost to an overdose or a self-inflicted gunshot or a random accident. 

Every person who has stood by the graveside and wept for the ending that seems so final and irrevocable.  

We have known the terror, the exhaustion, the confusion, the anger, the pain that comes with being in the center of a storm.

Which is why Peter’s choice just perplexes me.

What would possess someone to step out into the storm?  

The ship may not be the safest place in the moment.  But it is certainly safer than the open waters in the midst of a tempest.  I’d have rather been in Uncle Billy’s boat than sinking beneath the surf.

So in his choice to step out onto the water, Peter was abandoning the most logical choice.  He was leaving behind his comfort zone.  He was revealing his weakness, his fear in front of all the disciples.

And for what?  

Maybe the better question is, for who?

See, I believe that Peter stepped out on that water for himself.

For I think he knew that deep down the storm did not have the final word.  And by entering the storm, he was willing to be changed by the storm and by the God who was present in both the quiet whispers of the mountain and in the center of the hurricane.  

And in that moment, he truly did walk on water.

My friends, I believe that our God still beckons us out onto the water of our own storms.

And though the winds may not always subside.  And though the waves may still crash around us.  Though we may still feel overwhelmed and afraid.  Anxious and angry.

We can still walk out into it.  Drawing on the spirit of God at work in us.

We can still find ourselves changing.  Growing in compassion, courage and strength.  Gaining in wisdom and perseverance and serenity.  Healing, mending, reconciling, believing.  Becoming vulnerable, empathetic and sources of hope and unconditional love.

And in so doing, we may just find that we too can stand on water, no matter how turbulent our seas.

May God be Praised.  

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