But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he (Peter) cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt? -Matthew 14:30-31
A member of my family, when she was struggling with alcohol addiction and depression, told me that her most heartfelt and honest prayer had been: “God, help me.” And we hear St. Peter utter this prayer in today’s Gospel too: “Lord, save me!” In the course of our lives, how often have we prayed this simple prayer that acknowledges our need for God and God’s help!
In today’s first reading , the prophet Jeremiah is once again giving a message of God’s love to a people in trouble. In the forty years that Jeremiah ministered as prophet, there were many times when the people strayed from their relationship with God, causing Jeremiah much sorrow and the people much confusion and suffering, some of which is described in graphic detail in today’s first reading.
Like the people in difficult situations in today’s Scriptures, we sometimes feel vulnerable and powerless and even lost. Like St. Peter, we may fear we are sinking, or even drowning. Acknowledging our situation can bring us to a deeper dependency on God. But how do we keep our relationship with God alive?
No relationship can survive without conversation; we call conversation with God “prayer”. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us an example of prayer. After long days of teaching and healing, “he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening He (Jesus) was there alone.”(Matthew 14:23) While Jeremiah was in prison (as often happens to prophets), he received this message: “Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you great things beyond the reach of your knowledge.” (Jeremiah 33:3) Jeremiah’s prayer, like all good conversations, had some speaking and some listening. And these conversations with God sustained him in his forty difficult years as a prophet.
One of my favorite hymns about prayer is “Just as I Am” by Charlotte Elliot. Here is the second verse:
“Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fighting and fears within without
Oh, Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Like when we meet with a close friend, we come to God just as we are. And God meets us there, ready for a conversation.
Patty Gillis is a retired Pastoral Minister. She served on the Board of Directors at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit. She is currently a member of the Laudato Si Vision Fulfillment Team and the Passionist Solidarity Network.