14 August 2017
"Do You Trust Me?"
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but the Disney version of “Aladdin” came out 25 years ago! Robin Williams is the voice of the Genie, and it has the famous song, “A Whole New World.” That song takes place on Aladdin’s magic carpet, and it begins right after Aladdin, pretending to be Prince Ali Abawa, asks Princess Jasmine, whom he likes, “Do you trust me?” Those are the exact same words that Aladdin asks Princess Jasmine when she is pretending to be a commoner and she is running away from trouble in the marketplace: “Do you trust me?”
“Trust,” we so often say, “is earned, not given.” Or we might say, “Trust, but verify.” But in our Gospel, St. Peter takes neither of those approaches. Jesus has done some amazing things for Peter (helps him catch fish even though they had been fishing all night; changes water into wine), but it’s not clear that Peter knows exactly who Jesus is. It’s not for another chapter in Matthew’s Gospel that we hear Peter confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. And it’s clear that most of the apostles think that the vision of Jesus is a ghost, not the real thing. Peter had no way to verify if it truly was Jesus. In fact, in Peter’s act of faith (which, admittedly, falters), Peter walking on water was the way he was going to verify it was Jesus.
But Peter must have trusted that it was truly Jesus, and that if Jesus told him to walk on water, then walk on water was what Peter would do. Think of all the temptations that Peter had before he even got out of the boat: they were being tossed about by waves, it was the middle of the night, and the apostles were all terrified. And yet Peter stepped out onto the water because Jesus, or something that Peter thinks might be Jesus, tells him to do so.
But as soon as Peter stops trusting Jesus, as soon as the realities around Peter become the focus and not Jesus, Peter starts to sink. But even then, Jesus verifies and earns Peter’s trust, by reaching out to save Peter when he cries out in fear.
Do we trust Jesus? Or do we feel Jesus hasn’t earned our trust, or we need to verify before we can trust Jesus? Would we be willing to step out on water (and not the frozen kind) to walk to Jesus, or would the fear of drowning keep us from even putting one foot over the side of the boat?
Trusting God can seem hard. It doesn’t mean life always goes well. Jesus had to entrust Himself to God the Father even on the cross. Temptation eats at Jesus, as we hear Him say, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” But even though tempted, Jesus doesn’t give in to His fears, and will also say, “Into your hands I commend [or entrust] my spirit.” Even as He is dying, Jesus shows us how to trust God in horrible circumstances.
What makes it especially difficult to trust is when we feel that we have been let down. We all have that one person, maybe a former friend, who has let us down, betrayed us, and not been there when we needed him or her. Maybe that friend was even a spouse. And now we find it hard to trust again. That fear of betrayal, of abandonment, can easily bleed into our relationship with God. We show up, but it’s on our terms, not God’s. We have expectations about how things should be, and if they’re not fulfilled, then we’ll cut bait and run.
For many of us, we trust God with certain things: secrets, hopes, fears, etc. But maybe there’s an area of our life where we don’t trust God. Maybe we don’t trust God when it comes to money. Maybe we don’t trust God to guide our relationship. Maybe we don’t trust God when it comes to conceiving a child or how many kids we should have. Maybe we don’t trust God to truly forgive us. All of those are very common ways that we think we know better than God, or we don’t want to involve God in those parts of our lives. But to that fear, Jesus invites us to trust in Him and walk on water.
Maybe we don’t trust that God will be enough for us, or we don’t trust that we can be alone with God. In our first reading, Elijah heard God not in the dramatic aspects of life–the strong and heavy wind, the crushing of rocks, the earthquake, the fire–but in a tiny whispering sound. The only way to hear that tiny whisper is to keep silence. If we really want to know if we trust God, try being silent with Him. Silence can be the scariest thing in the world, because we might actually hear God, and maybe we don’t trust that what He says to us will be for our good. It’s so much easier to play with our phones, to listen to music, to distract ourselves, than to be silent with God.
After the music stops and while I’m still purifying the sacred vessels (or as some say, cleaning the dishes), can you simply kneel or sit in silence and wait to hear God, whom you have just received in the Eucharist? It would be comical if it weren’t so sad, how many times someone feels like they have to break the silence by a “cough” or another noise (and I’m talking about adults, not kids). But it is in the silence where we can so often hear God speaking to us, inviting us to trust Him in every aspect of our lives, not just the ones we want.
Take time in your life for silent prayer with God, a time, maybe just 5 minutes, to entrust yourself to God. For some of us it may be as scary as stepping out onto the water like St. Peter did. But remember that God will not let us drown.
Today at the end of Mass, we will also, along with every other parish in the Diocese of Lansing, entrust our parish and all who belong to it, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in an act of consecration. In a formal way we give ourselves over to God for His glory, rather than our own plans. We do so on the 100th Anniversary of the apparition of our Blessed Mother to the shepherd children at Fatima. We entrust our lives to her and ask her to help us to say yes to God, just as she did at every moment of her life. There is more information in the narthex if you are interested. May we truly trust in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Immaculate Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.