1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
One of the ways Gospel teaching unfolds is through Jesus’ use of contrast. Whether it’s the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:10ff) or Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19ff), the intent is not so much to separate and categorize, however, but to remind us that we are both/and, (not either/or), to encourage us to embrace our own shadow. Remember the weeds and wheat from two weeks ago? In a parallel way, today’s readings are filled with wonderful words of reassurance! God is present in the "tiny whispering sound" (another translation says "still, small voice") as well as the ferocious storm at sea.
Scripture scholars offer various interpretations for today’s Gospel of the miracle of Jesus walking on water, but all agree that the boat is a symbol of the early Church, being tossed about on the rough seas of persecution and apostasy. For most the meaning of the story centers around our hesitation to risk and trust. My preferred explanation is that St. Peter is chided by Jesus ("O, you of little faith, why did you doubt?") not because he failed at walking on water, but because he "jumped ship" – i.e., he abandoned the Church to try to stick close to his personal and limited experience of Jesus.
More and more I believe that "spirituality" without "religion" is impossible. The Latin word "religio" means to tie fast or hold together. What is holding me together at this time of my life? How grace-full it is to have a community to pinch my pride, to bump against my ego. Seeking to develop human consciousness and grow spiritually is simply not possible if I fail to tether myself, commit myself, to community.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is pastor of St. Agnes Parish, Louisville, Kentucky.