1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a
Many people would argue that we, as human beings, are very much afraid of failure. We hate to fail, no doubt about it. Fear of failing can indeed keep us from trying things. I believe, however, that there is one thing we fear even more. Mare than being afraid of failure, we are afraid of success. If we succeed at something, anything, we suddenly find ourselves bearing the burden of expectation. We start to succeed, and suddenly people start to expect things from us. There’s no hiding, no running away, so our best defense against these expectations is to either fail, or not try at all. Jesus, having sent his disciples on ahead of him, begins to approach them walking on the water. Terrified, the disciples are sure it is a ghost. Jesus reassures them, saying it’s me, don’t be afraid. Peter calls to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” Peter steps out of the boat and begins to walk to Jesus on the wave tops. Peter is fine until he realizes what he is doing, until he realizes he can’t walk on water, no one can. As sinks into the waves Jesus saves him and takes him to the boat. Jesus says to Peter, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter was succeeding, doing well, until fear took over. His success ended when he forgot why he was succeeding at all. It was only in Jesus, in the help that Jesus gave, in the reliance on faith in Jesus, that Peter was successful. Jesus asks each of us to do but one thing, love. Love God, love our fellow human beings. This is not an easy task. We can, when we choose to be quite unlovable, and quite willing to not love. It can seem to be a lot like walking on water. We step out of the boat, start of pretty well, then realize what we are doing. I can’t do this. Why should I? Hardly anyone else seems to. So we start to sink, sink into the abyss of separation, of loneliness, of not loving or being loved, until we remember, remember that like Peter we can’t walk on this water alone. Faith in Jesus, reliance on God, these lift us up out of the swirling depths, into the boat, safe and secure in the love of Christ. Then, and only then, do we have a chance to overcome our fear of success.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Aug. 10, 2008