In listening to snippets of conversations at the gym, after daily Mass or casual conversations with other vacationers here in Pismo Beach, I hear the same anxieties, doubts and fears. Whether the subject is gang violence, terrorism or the upcoming presidential election, the sense of desperation mixed with cynicism is almost tangible. It can be contagious. Even for those few of us who refuse to watch the news, the headlines cannot be missed on the multiple television screens which adorn over half the walls of the gym where I work out while down on the central California coast. Strident, certain, and predictive of dire consequences if either he or she becomes President, the voiced opinions are increasingly passionate.
Because there are three churches celebrating daily Mass within a fifteen minute drive of our RV, we go each day to worship, listen and be renewed. This past Tuesday, Fr. Daniel at the Benedictine Monastery of the Risen Christ in San Luis Obispo talked about doubt and faith in a new and intriguing way. The monk was reflecting on the Gospel passage we know well: The apostles are alone in the boat and Christ returns from the mountain where he has prayed all night to find his disciples in the middle of the ocean. Jesus takes a shortcut to them by walking on top of the waves. It's the middle of the night, the twelve are tired and his figure looks like a ghostly apparition walking on top of the waves. They are terrified. Hearing their fear, Jesus spoke to them:
Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.
Of course, it is Peter who recovers first. Impetuous, impulsive, eager; so wonderfully human: "Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." We know what happens when he takes his eyes off Christ to notice the magnitude of the waves. He does what we do when we look or walk away from Jesus, he starts to drown.
But Fr. Daniel chose in his homily to look at that exact point- calling it the boundary where doubt and faith intersect. Peter was drowning, it is true. But rather than succumb to despair, he cried out,
"Lord, save me!" Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
These are the times, 'teaching moments from God', despite the depth of the blackness, where we can push through the gates of our doubts and stretch out our hands into the dark, reaching, trusting. And join with five million young people, Fr. Daniel exclaimed, five million, who showed up for World Youth Day to pray with Pope Francis in Krakow, Poland. To find that our faith has deepened, our hearts have stretched.
Today Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, is calling you to leave your mark on history. He, who is life, is asking each of you to leave a mark that brings life to your own history and that of many others. He, who is truth, is asking you to abandon the paths of rejection, division and emptiness.Are you up to this? What answer will you give, with your hands and with your feet, to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life?