What Is My Poverty

How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: “What is my poverty?” Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That’s the place where God wants to dwell! “How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.
We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.
 Henri Nouwen
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Jesus Walks On The Water, Homily

Homily, Aug 12&13, Cyc A, 19th Ord, Jesus Walks On The Water

In this part of Ordinary time we are exposed to some the Classic stories. Last week it was the Transfiguration, the week before it was the Treasure buried in a field

This weekend we have the story of Jesus walking on the water as He approaches His terrified disciples in their boat during a storm.

All throughout scripture we find water symbolizing danger. Beginning in the Creation story we have the Holy Spirit hovering over the chaotic waters to bring order. In today’s story, we have Jesus, in effect, hovering over the water to bring order and peace to His disciples.

This is the second time Jesus is involved with His disciples in a boat during a storm. Remember? The other time, He was asleep in the boat and they awakened Him pleading for Him to quiet the storm.

Both times Jesus was trying to increase their faith in Him. In today’s story, He raised the bar; He really escalated the call to faith. It’s one thing to wake Him up in the boat, it’s quite another to step out of the boat and walk toward Him on water in a storm.

When they see Him coming toward them they think He is a ghost. Why not? He is certainly out of the normal context in which they are used to experiencing Him.

Jesus calls out to them and Peter is the first to ‘kind of’ recognize Him and says, if that is really You, call me to come to You on the water. Of course, we know the rest of the story, Jesus responds with, “Come”, and Peter left the safety of the boat, stepped over the side, and walked on the water towards Jesus.

Well, at least he walked for a while until he took his eyes off the Lord and became frightened by the wind and waves and began to sink. There’s a nugget of wisdom in all of that about keeping our eyes on Jesus.

At that point, Jesus caught Peter and lifted him up and saved him. Then supposedly Jesus chided Peter saying, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” See now, I have a problem with that response.

I know it’s just me, but it sounds so stilted, like wording placed in Jesus’ mouth after the fact to make a clear point about faith, but totally not South-Georgia-ese.

Every time I read this story I am reminded of something that happened to me 70 years ago. Now, you might ask how I could remember something that happened 70 years ago when I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast. The answer is simple, because I was terrified at the time, and we store our memories along with the emotion associated with them.

I was 6 years old and sitting on the roof of our dock while my dad nailed on new roof shingles on the other side of the peak.

I was sitting on some loose shingles he hadn’t nailed yet. I began to slide down the roof and was unable to stop and slid right off the edge feet first and into the water which was way over my head.

I couldn’t swim yet, but instinctively I held my breath. About the time I reached the bottom and was beginning to look around in a panic, my dad hit the water right beside me in a column of bubbles.  Cecil B. Demille would be proud. Cinematically, it was like magic…

He gathered me to his chest, smiled and pushed us off the bottom and back to the surface. He saved me. The first words from his mouth were, “You know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.”

See, with that background, I’d feel a lot better if Jesus had said something like that to Peter.

But, again, that’s just me. The Pope hasn’t called yet to get my thoughts on the story.

Sometimes it’s hard to see ourselves in these stories. I mean, it’s difficult imagining us getting out of a boat to walk toward Jesus on the water as a demonstration of faith in Him.

But, the truth is, we do very similar things all the time at a lower level of intensity. It’s like Elijah in the first reading, the fire, wind, and storm didn’t faze him, but he knew God was present in the small whispering sound.

For instance, do you ever wake up in the morning and while you are still in the bed, clicking into consciousness, do a quick review of the day ahead, see something difficult scheduled and say, “Oh no Lord, I really don’t want to start this day”.

Yet, something changes inside us and after a few minutes we roll over the side of the bed/boat and off we go. We just don’t see that action as walking toward Jesus. We see it more as obligation, part of the job, or just what is on our plate. We forget we cried out softly to the Lord for help.

We get to work, park the car, gather our stuff, and mumble something like, “I really don’t want to go in – Lord help me”. Something changes inside of us. Then we open the door, roll off the seat/boat and off we go.

Even here in Church: When communion time arrives, we’re sitting in the pew doing a quick examination of conscience which we missed during the penitential rite, and hesitate because maybe we haven’t been very nice to others lately.

But, then not being able to identify a specific sin that would keep us in our place, we stand up in faith and walk out of the pew/boat and off we go to communion.

And, you know, Jesus is right there waiting for us in all those examples and many more. When we get out of the bed, get out of the car, or get out of the pew, and come forward, Jesus is right there waiting for us just like He waited for Peter.

When we walk up the aisle to receive Him we are walking up on the waters, in faith, to receive Him into ourselves, with the belief in our heart that it will make us better and closer to the Lord, more able to see Him in our lives, His being there.

That’s His promise, to be there with us. He didn’t promise a rose garden, He promised to be there with us. In John 10, 10 He said, “He came that we might have life, and have it to the fullest” which implies to me that He is quite aware bad things sometimes happen to good people, but He’s there with us as we go through it.

And, when we falter, and oh yes, we do falter, He reaches out to help us, maybe through circumstances, or maybe through other people, or maybe through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit giving us actual grace and the necessary boost.

And, if we could hear Him at those times, I believe He would be saying, “I’m here with you, you know I wouldn’t let anything happen to you”.