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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ We Are Not Alone

These are anxious times. Our global community faces a host of challenges. Even a glance at the news, reveals war in Ukraine, shortages and famines in food supplies in many regions, populist extremes and political upheavals in many countries, weather issues and wildfires, the impact of climate change and how to address it effectively. Our world is encountering threats and uncertainty on many fronts. What is the path ahead? How do we handle all these threatening circumstances? Perhaps there is direction and support in our faith and in the community that surrounds us. In the midst of challenges, we find hope and the courage to respond to them.

At the center of our Christian faith is the wonder or mystery of the Incarnation, our belief that God loves us so much that God has come to share our humanness in the person of Jesus the Christ. As the Gospel of John begins to relate the story and meaning of Jesus, the writer proclaims this truth of our faith. He puts it this way: “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

As the story unfolds, the Gospel takes us further. Relating the account of Jesus’s encounter with a Pharisee named Nicodemus, Jesus tells him: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”(John 3:16-17) Salvation comes in recognizing that God comes among us and shares in our human story, even in the midst of our questions, uncertainties and the unknowns. In these anxious times, we need to know that our “being in this together” includes God who shares our humanity. The Incarnation tells us how we are saved.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow him as our master and teacher, to learn who he is and what he is about. It also means that we reflect this Jesus in our own lives and in doing so become the face of our loving God to all. For this we need faith and trust, as well as the courage to let the spirit of Jesus grow within us, to follow him and to be like him. In the situations of our lives, this is not easy. For it means to step out into the unknown. Scarey!

Matthew in his Gospel (Matt.14:22-33) captures the disciple Peter facing such a challenge. In so many ways, Peter is us. The Gospel story describes the way Jesus goes up a mountain to pray. The disciples take a boat to the other side of the lake. Caught in a storm, the disciples can’t get the boat to shore. Jesus comes to them on the water. Impetuous Peter shouts to Jesus asking that he be called to join him on the water. Jesus does so and Peter steps out in response. Like any good disciple, Peter sought to do what his master was doing.

As he walks toward Jesus, the Gospel notes that Peter suddenly felt the high winds and he loses his nerve. Filled with fear, he loses faith and begins to sink. Calling out to Jesus, he appeals for help. Jesus reaches out his hand and saves him. Like any good master, Jesus recognizes the challenge that his disciple has in stepping out where he has gone. As any good master as well, Jesus continues to reach out to his disciple. He does not desert Peter, but remains the caring and supportive teacher.

In these anxious times, that outreach of Jesus is the care and support we must have. Our faith in the Incarnation of our God in Jesus the Christ is how we are saved. We are never alone.

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