In my nerdy way I was pleased as punch to discover that today was the Feast of St Alphonsus Ligouri, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. Why am I so interested in him, you might ask? Because moral theologizing revolutionized the way that the Sacrament of Reconciliation was ministered, and I have a burgeoning academic interest in that sacrament. If you didn’t understand any of that, it doesn’t matter. You can skip this exposition.
The Gospel today was Jesus walking on water and Peter attempting the same thing. The first time that Gospel moved me was at a “God-school” liturgy the first summer I was taking classes (which was, I hate to admit, not one but TWO lectionary cycles ago, in 2005. I will finish this degree eventually, I promise). I remember being so struck by the connection our homilist made to risk-taking in our own lives, being willing to step out of the boat and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in order not to get dragged down.
I often seem like a big risk-taker, but the truth is, I’m not. I’m very guarded in significant ways – as we all are, I think. Because I’m mouthy and speak without fear people think that I’m brave. But when sacrifice, submission or sensitivity is asked of me my insides stiffen. I don’t know how to do those things, and I don’t know that I want to. But I’m called to grit my teeth and say my prayers and try something new, becoming more human – and loving – in the process.
I was also at God-school liturgy today when I heard this Gospel. A lot has changed in six years. I have learned to be vulnerable in ways I never imagined I could. I have had the bottom fall out, had everything I thought was true turn out to be false, and discovered I hadn’t drowned. I also know now that the scary risks I have taken will be nothing compared to what the rest of life brings me, and even if I think I’ve gotten out of the boat, I still have a long way to walk on the water.
Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” I know how much farther I have to walk, and I know that it is going to continue to be frightening. But I am convinced that the voice keeps calling, and that responding to that call, no matter how strong my defense mechanisms fight it, is the only way I will be satisfied.