Walking on Water

Source: dreamstime.org

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” (Mathew 6: 25-28)

This reading from Mathew from June 23 is one that I include in my Sunday School program, with the emphasis on not worrying about more earthly concerns to allow the freedom to focus on the spiritual. Even as a child, there are things to worry about, so that reassurance is important to instil early.

We all have things to worry about, things that hassle us, concern us.  Searching the term “do not worry” on Bible Gateway yields seven chapters throughout the Bible; it is a consistent message.  Indeed, this reading is part of the preparation for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Building the trust in the loving care God affords us is a lifetime task – at least it is for me. Wise thoughts from “Living Space”: Worry and anxiety about the future is a waste of time.  Enjoyment and happiness are in the present.  Do not regret the past or worry about the future.

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today…” (Mathew 6: 34)

Although I may realize the infinite love God has for me, and I strive to trust God in everything, it is not within me to have no concerns or anxieties.  Today’s world leaves us all too busy, leaves us all with too little time, even to think straight.

Choosing the freedom, or is it choosing the discipline, to allow God to lead is theoretically easy but in reality, difficult.  Is this the narrow gate?

 “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mathew 7: 14)

Last fall, I was very badly struck when I learned one of my chronic pain patients had committed suicide.  I felt like a failure.  I gave him my best effort, but I feel it didn’t work; I had not detected suicidal intention two days prior to the event.

I had had two previous patients that had threatened suicide and had referred them to the psychiatric hospital emergency department.  Why did I miss this one?  In the mayhem that is my life, this was like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Thankfully, I was blessed by meeting another patient while out having retail therapy in the form of Christmas shopping.  In a very direct manner, she thanked me in the middle of the store for getting her well enough to work.  It made my day.

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.  But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”  Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mathew 14: 28-31)

How often do I feel like Peter walking on water? I follow that command, and where does it get me?  Peter put his lot in with Jesus at a very frightening time. Peter risked everything to walk on that water.

He trusted Jesus to keep him from falling into the turbulent, unpredictable, menacing deep that was that storm.  Faith and trust would keep him from sinking into mayhem.  But his faith and trust faltered.  Jesus still reached out and saved him and brought him back to safety.

At times, I feel like I am walking on the same turbulent, unpredictable, menacing deep, managing to survive because I am depending on and trusting in Jesus to keep me above it. When I am stressed, I intentionally imagine that all my concerns and anxieties are in that water, and that I am floundering in it.

I can’t afford to falter in faith because I feel I would be lost.  Yet, with the reality that I am walking hand in hand with Jesus above and out of the storm, I stay sane.  That brings peace.  I can imagine all those worries below me and make sense of them from a distance.  I trust he will lead me.

It is easy to say “do not worry,” but not always easy to do.  But there are also ways around that.

Dr. Michael Bautista is a physician practising in St. John's and is the recipient of the 2015 Ignatian Spirit Award from St. Bonaventure's. He is also an associate professor of Medicine and residency program director in anesthesia.

  • Maria Skarzynski
    Posted at 09:55h, 12 July Reply

    Beautifully explained – I will remember that in my life. Thanks Doc.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 16:26h, 12 July Reply

    Freedom from, then freedom for and finally freedom with. Thank you Mike!

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