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Homily for 8/21/03 - P9 - Christ and the Church

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  • David Moser
    Matt 14:22-31 Today the Gospel gives us a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church and His care for us. After the miraculous feeding of the 5000 our Lord
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 21, 2005
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      Matt 14:22-31



      Today the Gospel gives us a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church and
      His care for us. After the miraculous feeding of the 5000 our Lord sent the
      disciples to the other side of the sea while He dismissed the crowd and
      retired to the mountaintop to pray. As the disciples were sailing across
      the sea, a violent storm came up and though they were experienced sailors
      (being fishermen by trade) they began to struggle and they cried out to
      Jesus to save them. As soon as they called out to Him, Jesus Christ came to
      them, down from the mountain top, walking across the surface of the waves.



      In this picture, Jesus is sitting upon the mountain top - that is in
      heaven - praying for us and watching out for us. We Christians, in the
      persons of the disciples are sailing across the sea of life in the ark of
      salvation, that is in the Church. The sides and bottom of the boat, its
      structure, represent here the structure of the Church, our Traditions and
      canons and customs. It is this structure which keeps us safe in the stormy
      sea of life. As long as we remain within this structure, we are safe.



      As is always the case, there are times when the wind rises and the storms
      become violent and threaten to over come us even though we are secure within
      the Church. At these moments we need only to call out to Christ and He is
      there coming to us, untouched by the storms of life, walking through them as
      though they were nothing.



      This is the picture of Christ and the Church. He put the disciples in the
      boat, just as he puts us in the Church. He sends them off with directions
      of where to sail, just as He directs us to His Kingdom. The boat protects
      them from all the dangers and distractions of life by its structure, it's
      sides and bottom, just as the Church keeps us safe from the onslaught of the
      waves and chaos of the world by our Holy Tradition and customs and canons.
      Jesus Christ loves us and wants to keep us safe from all the dangers that
      may face us and this is why He puts us in the Church, the ark of salvation.
      The walls of the Church - our Traditions and canons and customs - protect us
      from the greatest force of the storms - they don't even get through. Just
      as Noah in the flood or the disciples in the storm on the sea, we too are
      kept secure from the overwhelming temptations and trials of life within the
      walls of our boat - our ark of salvation - the Church.



      There are times, however, when we do become afraid because the waves are so
      high, the temptations and persecutions are so strong, that we feel as though
      we might be swept overboard or even swamped. In those moments we cry out to
      our Savior and He comes to us, offering us the peace and protection of His
      presence. When He appears, the power of the storms and the waves is
      completely set aside.



      Now there are always questions about why we need the Church and her
      traditions. Why not just trust Christ Himself, couldn't He simply save us
      without the Church. If He can walk on the water, couldn't we just walk with
      Him? Why do we need the Church? For this question, our picture is expanded
      just a bit. As our Lord Jesus Christ came to the disciples walking on the
      water, Peter, filled with faith and awe of God cried out saying that if
      Christ would permit, he would come out of the boat and walk on the water to
      Jesus. And, in order to help Peter learn the importance of the Church,
      Jesus permitted him to come. Peter then came over the side of the boat,
      all the while looking only at the face of Jesus. His whole attention, his
      whole being, was filled only with the desire to be with Jesus Christ.
      Placing his feet in the water, Peter began to walk on the surface of the sea
      out to where Jesus had appeared. Suddenly though a great wave came up and
      obscured Peter's vision, he was distracted for just a moment and in that
      moment the flood of reason, self regard and worldly care flooded in and he
      began to sink. He called out, "Lord save me" and just as before when all in
      the boat prayed, Jesus was right there, holding out his hand, pulling Peter
      out of the water. Jesus then picked him up and placed him safely in the
      boat.



      With all of our faith and love and hope focused intensely on Jesus Christ,
      with all of our desire committed completely to being with Him, we might be
      able to "walk on water" and go safely through life without the ark of
      salvation. As Peter found out, it is possible. However, it is only
      possible when we have that complete focus and attention on Christ, only as
      long as nothing obscures our vision of Him, only as long as we can
      completely set aside the chaos and temptation of the world around us. If we
      were able to do this, then nothing else would be necessary. But as Peter
      also found out, this is not possible for us to do. Even the slightest
      temptation, the slightest distraction will lead to our downfall and we will
      be sinking again. When Peter failed, he cried out of Christ and was lifted
      out of the water. Having saved him from sinking, what did Jesus do? He did
      not set Peter back on his feet and expect him to walk on the water again,
      rather he took Peter and returned him to the safety of the boat. When we
      call out to Jesus Christ to save us, He comes and picks us up, pulling us
      out of the sea of this world in which we are sinking. Then He puts us
      safely, not on top of the water, but into the ark of salvation. The Church
      is the refuge, the provision of Christ for us so that we can safely and
      without fear or faltering, work out our salvation. We need this ark because
      we are weak, we have moments when we lose sight of Christ, when we falter,
      when we are overcome by the cares and temptations of the world. If this
      happens while we are in the boat, then we are protected by the structure of
      the Church around us - but if we are alone, in the middle of the sea, we
      begin to sink and are in danger of drowning.



      This is indeed a beautiful picture of Christ and the Church. We see that He
      is in heaven interceding for us. We see that we are protected by the ark of
      salvation from the cares and temptations of the world around us. We see
      how, when we call out for help, Christ is there to overcome the tempests of
      temptation and suffering in the world. Even if we, through our own
      foolishness, end up sinking in the waves as did Peter, Jesus Christ is
      there, reaching out to pull us from the water and restoring us to the safety
      of the ark. This picture of Christ and the Church is also a picture of God's
      providence for us. Knowing our weakness, knowing that we are unable to
      sustain the focused prayer and faith to walk on the water for more than a
      second or two, Jesus Christ has crafted for us a safe haven, the Church,
      which protects us even in our own weakness, even when our own faith and
      reason and wisdom fail us, we remain safe within the walls of the Church.
      Though it is possible in moments of great faith to "walk on water" it is not
      required for anyone to do so. Not only has Jesus Christ given us this safe
      ark of salvation, but just as He came to the disciples in the midst of the
      storm and lifted Peter from the waves and restored Him to safety, so also
      Jesus comes to us and enters into the ark of salvation with us so that not
      only has He given us this great salvation, but He is with us, helping,
      teaching us, strengthening us, preserving us, alongside of us here in His
      ark of salvation, His Church.



      When we cry out to God to save us, He pulls us from the waves and places us
      in His ark that He has provided for us. Here we are safe, despite all our
      weakness, all our falls and fears. As long as we stay in the boat, even the
      worst storms of life cannot touch us. And best of all, we are not in this
      boat alone, but we have the whole of the people of God here with us, helping
      us, encouraging us, guiding and teaching us. And even more, we have with us
      the One Whom we desire, the One Whom we love above all others, Jesus Christ
      who doesn't stand apart from us, but rather enters into the ark of salvation
      with us to be with us that we might also be with Him.
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