August 1, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church

Today's Readings

Walking on water is a symbol of the spiritual life. We wish it were otherwise; we wish that we could find solid ground, a place where we could stand on our own, but such a place does not exist in the spiritual life. The boat is a symbol of the simplistic spiritual life, the life of spiritual infants. To grow up in faith requires stepping out of the boat onto the water, leaving behind every support except faith.

Jesus asks Peter this key question: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter does not answer because there is no answer. He was standing on the water. He sees the strong wind, but what does that matter? A stormy sea is no more difficult to walk on than a still one. The wind is a symbol of temptation. There is no reason why we should fall for temptation, but we do. When we stand on the water, invited out there by Jesus, we have many temptations to doubt that we can live the spiritual life, but the essential fact remains: we are. It is not until we begin to doubt that we begin to sink.

No matter how fiercely the winds blow, we should remember the simple tautology: so long as we stand on the water, we are standing on the water. So long as we are faithful to God, we are being faithful to God. Questions like, “How long can I keep this up?” are meaningless. It only matters that we are being faithful right now. The future and the past are relatively unimportant in the spiritual life. “How long have I been faithful?” and “How long can I be faithful?” are not appropriate questions.

Peter, even in the moment of doubt, teaches us what we ought to do when we begin to sink into sin. “Lord, save me!”, he screams. He said this as soon as he was “beginning to sink”. In other words, he did not fall into the water right away. The temptation tells him that he cannot stand on water, and it is a self-fulfilling temptation. The water begins to cover his feet; he could have despaired, but he immediately calls out to the Lord.

While we stand on the water, we should laugh at the lying wind. When we have believed the lies and begun to sink, we should not wait until we are underwater but turn immediately to the Lord and call for help.