The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (14:22-34)
Everyone has moments in their life where they feel as if they are going to drown. I’m not necessarily talking about drowning in water, but the feeling that we are drowning in the difficult circumstances of our life. A marriage on the rocks. A woman feeling the weight of her role as mother. Parents who are struggling with disconnected teens. It may be financial difficulties like an unexpected car repair or the loss of job. It might even be an unexpected illness. Our fathers and mothers in the spiritual life alsospeak of the feeling that we are drowning in the sea of sin and temptations. Everyone must go through such difficult moments as these. They are a part of our human condition and the fallen world in which we find ourselves.
When we are going through such trials and tribulations they seem to consume us. We are consumed by worry and anxiety. We are consumed by fear. We often are paralyzed to take any step in any direction. We see this in the picture of St. Peter as he seems to come to his senses and realizes that he is now walking on water in the midst of the sea in the middle of a raging and howling winds. We are told that he was afraid and began to sink. Please note that if the chief apostle was afraid even though he could clearly see the Lord Jesus Christ, then it is quite normal for us to be afraid when we sense that we are also at risk of drowning.
But it’s not enough to simply learn from Peter’s failure, we must also learn from his success. You might be asking yourself “whenwas he successful? He tried to walk on water and failed miserably” But actually he was successful in at least two ways. His initial faith and his cry of desperation. Often our initial faith in God and our ability to conquer our difficulties is quite strong. But later on we pay close attention to all of the “what-ifs” and we find that we are overtaken by the fear and anxiety that they cause. We become like Peter as he took notice of the winds and the raging seas instead of focusing on the Lord who called him. The initial faith was enough to get him out of the comfort of the boat, but it did not last. Luckily, Peter teaches us something else that is powerful, something that should be a life lesson for us. Something that we can carry with us as a powerful weapon and shield through the storms of life. Peter teaches us how to cry out to God from the depth of our fear. We are told that he cried out “Lord, save me!” Lord save me. Three words that can change anyone’s life. They may notalwayschange your outer circumstances, but they will change your frame of reference by changing the focus of your life. It is this inner change of our focus that brings about our redemption. Our turning from the distractions to the Lord and source of life. After all, how can we love the Lord with all our heart, mind soul and strength unless He is the focus of our attention?When we cry out to Him and say “Lord, save me!”He does not hesitate to extend His merciful hand to help us, often in ways that we do not immediately notice, but always in ways that are for our redemption and salvation.
Last week I mentioned to you that I had received the great blessing of three holy relics from three different saints. Last week we spoke of the life of Joseph the betrothed. Today I want to mention our next saint, St. Beatrix (Beatrice) of Rome. She was a woman who also faced trials, tribulations and great difficulties in her life. She witnessed the torture and beheading of her own dear brothers Sts. Faustinus and Simplicius in the year 303. Can we even begin to imagine her pain? We know however from her story that she did not sink in her despair. She did not drown in her despairbut she turned her despair towards the One who could relieve this despair. She face the worst and most unimaginable moments by crying out to the Lord “Lord, save me!” Her cry of despair became the firm foundation of her renewed faith in Jesus Christ and allowed her to refocus her life.
After she saw her brothers bodies thrown into the Tiber river she had them drawn out of the water and buried. This alone was a remarkably courageous act. For the next 7 months, she went to live with a pious woman named Lucina. She didn’t hide and cower in the face of the threat of the authorities. She wasn’t paralyzed through her profound grief. She wasn’t trapped in her worries about her own life and how she would survive from day to day even though she had lost the men who cared for her and supported her emotionally and financially. She cried out to Christ the conqueror of death and her life became an offering to others. During those 7 months, she worked in secret with Lucinato help persecuted Christians in their area. When she was discovered and arrested, she was commanded to sacrifice before the idols and she announced that she would never sacrifice to demons because she was a Christian. Does she sound like a woman who was gripped with fear of her circumstances or a woman who was gripped with love for God?
While she was in prison, she was strangled to death. Her dear friend Lucina took and buried her body along with her brothers in the cemetery called Ursum Pileatum near Rome. We are told thatPope Leo II (682-683) translated their relics to a church which he had built at Rome in honor of St. Paul.
St. Beatrix shows us what it is like to live and walk in the midst of the raging seas and the howling winds of life. She shows us that while there is a threat of drowning, she has no doubt that the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ is always ready to reach out and save us because He loves us and wants us to have life with Him. May she also pray for us to struggle with courage and to look up to Christ for light in the midst of our darkest hours. Glory be to God forever AMEN.