Once in a while, each of us has to eat “humble pie”. I am now eating “humble pie” before our God, who gives us everything that is good. Once in a while God reminds us to wait on him and learn patience. We follow Him, – – not the other way around. This causes some humbling moments for me, and I’ve had a few lately.
I’ve been directing a lot of my energy in recent months and years on a few projects to benefit our community. I just tend to forget who is driving the boat.
For the past eight years we have been putting pieces in place to build up the program to help under-privileged families to send their children to Catholic schools. This past year we again had over 150 children in Catholic schools. Once in a while I ask God to help us and to bless this program. He has. But I tend to forget that I am following Him; He’s not following me.
Then came Covid-19. In late June I became infected with Covid along with the other priests and the nuns. Turmoil overtook all of us, the priests and sisters, the parish, the school program, the families, the schools and the donors.
Thank God for the donors. At one point I thought we were going to have to close the tuition program. A prominent donor talked me down and convinced me to put the matter in God’s hands. It now appears most of our children will be returning to Catholic schools this Fall. Thanks be to God.
Over the past couple of years, I have been attempting to bring the Discipulos de Jesus to Sacred Heart Parish. These are male brothers of the same order as our religious sisters, Discipulas de Jesus. In June the Discipulos signed the contract and committed to send three brothers, two priests and one religious brother. Their mother house is in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Two former General Superiors of their order were chosen, plus the brother, also a member of their governing counsel. They are making a big commitment to work with us, with a strong team. Fr. Jorge Rios arrived here last weekend, on August 1.
However, a number of obstacles have arisen, like Covid, affecting the order and our parish. Our Mass attendance and parish collections have fallen around 50%. The Discipulos have encountered unexpected difficulties obtaining visas to come and work permanently in the parish. The delays could mean months of waiting before all of them can all come. We are working with the Discipulos to resolve the issues legally, but I’m having to learn a new level of humility, patience and trust in God. It is in His hands. I got way out ahead of myself on this project. I believe God wants the Discipulos to come. The Diocese and the Bishop have supported us. I have no doubt it will greatly benefit our parish and Diocese. But, I am not charge of this project. I never was. Humbly, I recognize that I cannot resolve the obstacles myself. God, our Father, is in charge. That is quite humbling for me.
Today’s Gospel reminds me that I’m in good company, especially with “impulsive” St. Peter. Peter got ahead of himself when he got out of the boat in the middle of the storm. After a few steps his fear of the wind and the waves distracted him and he sank into the waters. Jesus reached out and helped him get back in the boat.
Peter had similar experiences of impulsiveness on other occasions. Remember in the Garden of Gesthemene when he took out his sword and cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant? Jesus had to fix that situation, also. I can relate to impulsive Peter.
Church tradition recounts an episode we call, “Quo Vadis”. The Roman Emperor Nero initiated a severe persecution of the early Christians in Rome while Peter was living there. Peter fled Rome and the persecutions with many of the Christian community, down the Via Appia, the very road that brought him to Rome previously.
There is a small church on that road, just south of the city, called “Quo Vadis?” or “Where are you going?”, the words of Peter to Jesus when Jesus appeared to him on the road. Jesus was going the opposite direction, back to Rome. Peter said to the Lord, “Where are you going?”
The risen Lord responded to Peter, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again”. Peter turned around and followed Jesus back to the city, and was later crucified, upside down.
You may also recall the time when the risen Lord was preparing breakfast on the beach on the Sea of Galilee. The apostles had fished all night long and caught nothing until the Lord told them to try again, and they caught a lot of fish. After breakfast, Jesus said to Peter,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me”.
St. Peter was on that boat in the midst of his fellow disciples, all of them terrified of the storm. Peter wanted out of the boat. He left his brothers in the boat for safety with the Lord. He couldn’t do it and failed.
Jesus led him back where he belonged, back in the boat. The boat is the Church. Peter belongs in the boat.
St. Peter bailed out again when persecution threatened the small Christian Church at Rome. Once again, Jesus led him back where he belonged, back in the boat, in the midst of the storm, back to Rome where Peter would be martyred.
Over the years, many people have left the boat, left the Church for one reason or another. Now, we are in the midst of a terrible worldwide pandemic, and people are afraid. Many, many plans have been interrupted. None of us know where this will lead. We may experience more chaos, more uncertainty. So, how do we live with this?
Back in the boat. Get back in the Church and the Sacramental life of the Church. Put it all back in God’s hands and his plans. Get back in the boat. There simply is not a safer place for us than the Church.