I start this week with a short story….
He was a very simple old sailor, the skipper of the small boat that was taking them to the Shetlands, and they were a young, lively party; actors and actresses from London on tour, going to do a night or two on the Islands. They were not above ‘taking the mickey’ a bit, and they thought his way of saying grace before meals a bit quaint and old fashioned. However, before long a storm blew up, a really severe north-easter, and as the little ship began to pitch more and more violently, morale among the visitors got lower and lower.
A small deputation went up to ask the Captain’s opinion. ‘Well,’ he said ‘maybe we’ll get through, and maybe we won’t. I never remember such a storm.’ The news was greeted with dismay down below, and finally they sent someone else up to the bridge to ask whether the Captain would be so good as to come and say a prayer with his terrified passengers. His reply was simple; ‘I say my prayers when it’s calm; and when it’s rough, I attend to my ship.’ Anon1
How close to that short tale is our prayer life? Do we have a healthy prayer life when things are calm? Or do we wait until the water starts to engulf us like Peter to cry out “Lord! Save me!”
There has been a lot of talk in my house recently about when would be the right time for me to retire from my job. I’m pretty keen to do so sooner rather than later, whereas, Pam, being a more careful steward than I am, is concerned that we may not have enough saved yet to retire. During one of these discussions, Pam asked me if I had prayed about this, and I had to confess that I had not. I had been trying to make my plans without taking my hopes to God in prayer. This could have been disastrous, much the same as if St Peter had gotten out of the boat without being instructed by Jesus. I have now started taking these thoughts into my prayer life and will continue to.
Today’s readings show God’s hand in the natural world. We have talk of mighty winds, earthquakes, gentle breezes, storms and headwinds. Through it all is the guiding hand of God and when the boat the disciples were travelling on was struggling, Jesus marched across the water to reach them. The world today is a similar place, our country seems to be coming more secular by the week, our society seems focused on killing off religion, and religious ideas, ending traditional marriage, and especially, making a mockery of Christian teaching.2 We even have some within the Church diluting the faith, chipping away at sound teaching to try and make it fit their agendas. Looking at mainstream media we would hardly know that there were 1,500,000 people at a Mass last weekend when the pope went to Lisbon to celebrate World Youth Day.
St Peter walking on water towards Jesus is proof that when we have true faith in Jesus then we can do anything, but first of all we have to get out of the boat; move out of our comfort zone and risk following Jesus. This requires courage and also others to help keep us afloat at times; none of us can do this all by ourself; this is why we come together as a Community, so that we can help lift one another up when required and allow others to lift us when required.
We have experienced a very wet few weeks, St Bede’s was again affected by flood water last weekend. Today’s Scripture readings are a reminder that God is present in the gentlest of breezes and he can calm the storms of our life. Our goal is to maintain our communication with God in the calm times so that when the storms hit us, He recognises our voice when we cry out ‘Lord! Save me!’ if the waves become too much for us to bear.
How is God calling you this week? Which boat are you being asked to step out of in faith?
Are you content to allow the noise from the forces of life to surround you or are you like Elijah, waiting for the sound of the gentle breeze to announce God’s presence?
Do you allow quiet spells in your day to hear God calling? If so, do you have the courage to respond?
Finally, thinking back to the story I started with are we more like the skipper who prays in the calm times, ignoring the mickey taking so that when a crisis hits, we are well equipped? Or are we like the actors and actresses, who find it amusing when others pray in calm times, but as soon as a crisis hits look around for someone else to do their bidding to the Lord?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 164: faith experiences testing
CCC 272-274: only faith can follow mysterious ways of providence
CCC 671-672: in difficult times, cultivate trust that all is subject to Christ
CCC 56-64, 121-122, 218-219: history of covenants; God’s love for Israel
CCC 839-840: the Church’s relationship to the Jewish people
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation.
- Gabriel and Alice who are being Baptised at Holy Ghost on Saturday 12th August.
1 Anon, taken from Windows on Matthew [Kevin Mayhew Ltd, Stowmarket, Suffolk, 1998]111.
2 Rev Francis O’Sullivan, I am With You [Two in One Flesh, Caterham, 2013]100.