St Paul in the second reading today talks about his pain. Let me explain the background. (To see the words of the second reading, click here.)
Paul is hurt because he believes in Jesus, knows that Jesus is the one God sent to save them. Jesus is the Messiah. He is the Savior. He is the Lord. Paul knows that his people, the people of Israel, have waited for centuries for the Messiah to come. The Messiah came — Jesus. Jesus proves he is the Messiah by His miracles, by the love that he preached and showed, by his willingness to give his life on the cross, by his rising to new life on Easter Sunday. There were many Jews like Paul; they accepted Jesus; they saw Jesus as the Messiah. But Paul also knows that most of his Jewish brothers and sisters did not accept Jesus as the Messiah.
And yet, for Paul it was very clear. Why couldn’t the other people of Israel see and accept Jesus? Why didn’t they believe in Jesus? They did not accept Jesus as Messiah. So Paul feels very sad, hurt; his heart is broken.
His people, the people of Israel, had so many gifts from God: a special relationship with God, the covenant. God sent them prophets. They had the temple to worship God. God picked them to be his people. The prophets had told them many times how they would know the Messiah and the signs showing the Messiah. Jesus did them all.
But so many Jews refused to accept Jesus. Paul says,”If it made my people believe in Jesus, I would be willing to separate myself from Jesus so they could believe.”
But His people did not believe in Jesus. Paul is puzzled; he still does not understand. He hopes things can change in the future. But now, Paul accepts the mystery of God’s plan, he is not able to understand God’s plan fully. He knows that God continues to love the Jewish people, that God wants them to know and love Jesus the Messiah. But for now it is not happening. So Paul is sad, puzzled.
The same thing happens now with many people. Many parents raise their children to be good Catholics, give them good example, teach them well, bring them to church on Sunday. But then the children grow up. They don’t seem to care about church. They don’t have faith in Jesus; Jesus means nothing to them. Many parents feel sad and hurt. They too have to accept God’s plan and live with the mystery. They can’t always understand why God allows these things to happen.
What to do? What to do? We can learn from the Gospel story today. (To see the words of the Gospel, click here.)
You know the story. The disciples are in a boat; they are in the middle of a storm. The boat is tossed around, the wind is very strong and they are afraid. Then they see Jesus coming towards them walking on the water. They’re afraid; they think it is a ghost. They cry out. Peter thinks, “Is this really Jesus.” He says, “Jesus, if it is really you, call me to come to you.” Jesus says to Peter, “Come.” Peter looks at Jesus. He gets out of the boat and walks on the water. He succeeds in doing something impossible.
Then he looks around, sees the water and the wind. He becomes afraid; he begins to sink. He cries out, “Jesus, save me.” Jesus grabs his hand, holds on to him and saves him. Then Jesus asks the question, “Why do you have such little faith? Why do you doubt?”
The same thing happens to you and me. Sometimes bad things happen to us. We don’t always understand. Why is this going wrong in my life? Why am I sick? Why is this person close to me sick? Why is this person suffering? Why is this person dying? Why am I dying? We become afraid, confused. We doubt. In those situations we need to look at Jesus, pay attention to Jesus. The trouble continues; the worry continues; the fear continues. But we are able to set all that aside and have courage and strength and hope. How? Because we are looking at Jesus. When we keep our focus on Jesus, pay attention to Jesus, we have the ability to go through the storms, the problems, the troubles in our lives. Because we do not look at our own weakness or the troubles in the world, we look at Jesus and we know his power, his love for us. When we have trouble, sadness, worry, look to Jesus, focus on Jesus. He wants to give us strength and hope and peace in difficult times.
Let me end with a story:
You see pictures of old boats with sails, and in the middle of the boat there is a very tall mast. One day, a boat was in danger. The waves and winds were very strong. The captain told a young sailor to go up to the top of the mast and look out and see if there was any danger; were they close to land or were they safe? The sailor began to climb up the mast. He was doing well. Then he looked out at the water and the wind, and he became afraid and dizzy; he was afraid; he might not be able to hold on. One of the old sailors down on the deck looked up and saw he was in trouble. And he said, “Look up at the sky! Look up to the sky.” And the sailor on the mast looked up to the sky, then he calmed down and was to be at peace, and then he was able to climb to the top and get the information that the captain wanted.
When we look in the right direction, when we look at the right person, when we look at Jesus, when we pay attention to Jesus, then we are strong; we can be at peace; we can have hope, no matter what may be happening in our lives.