“Our God is close to the brokenhearted;and those who are crushed in spirit God saves.” Psalm 34:19
I am indeed brokenhearted and crushed in spirit by the suffering and death of my beloved partner in life and ministry for almost thirty years, Pastor Judy Beaumont,RCWP,Co-Pastor of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community. I know she is experiencing a glorious Easter with Christ in the love and light of God. That brings comfort but still the feelings of hurt and let down and loss are so great. the Good Friday of suffering and death loom before us. We prayed for life until it was clear that death was preferred to living in great suffering. We had prayed for life. We eventually prayed for death as release-we got death.
I struggle with this brokenness and feeling of being crushed every day. I cry when I least expect to cry. I cry on waking and sleeping, taking a walk or trying to do the financial things she did for us, I can’t even cook eggs the way she liked them let alone a meal. Yesterday on TV there was a lot of talk about “March Madness” and making the brackets for the Basketball championships. I cried like a baby because Judy had said” I want to live ’til March Madness!” And, she didn’t even get to do that. Although she had just made it to her 80th Birthday in December, she was not even near being “old” until AML Leukemia hit her hard. She appeared many years younger than that as her vitality and energy were strong until quite a while after this initially hit. She fought hard for life. She continued to serve and love God’s most broken people until the end. And she loved her women’s basketball enough to set March Madness as a goal. Her suffering felt “unjust” and this tiny wish was not granted. And yet we both continued to believe in a God of love and justice. And we both had to face that suffering and death are not always just/fair or easy, but just inevitable. Faith or no faith, Pastor or layperson, grappling with suffering and great personal loss is a time when beliefs may be sorely challenged-and when hearts are broken and life feels crushed.
“Brokenhearted” and “crushed in spirit” are good ways to describe the mourning process for one’s beloved-partner, spouse, child, Aunt, Uncle, sister, brother,parent,friend, companion, human or animal-for one who is as dear as life and sorely missed. God is close to those of us who mourn deeply. And that is because God’s own heart has been broken. Our Lenten journey leads to the Cross. Easter will follow, but first there is the cross. God did not save Jesus from the cross, but raised him afterward. God allowed Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross-“allowed”- didn’t interfere-not because God couldn’t but because God didn’t. It seems to me that God has given us the resources to be life giving and then leaves it up to us. In our own lives we still pray for miracles, and sometimes they happen, but when they don’t God is still there-close. How God could allow the cross (the most horrific death of the day) and how God must have shared Mary’s tears and the disciple’s tears on that day. How God shared Jesus excruciating pain and suffering on that day. How God’s heart was broken in every rejection of Jesus that led up to his passion. We know that Jesus wept for Jerusalem, for God’s people, and I believe that God wept for Jerusalem, and for all of God’s beloved people everywhere who turn away or don’t “get it”, that is God’s great love, and I believe God wept when Jesus suffered and died. Even as Jill, Judy’s beloved sister, and I cried as Judy died, God was close, perhaps crying too- but taking her home where she would be free of suffering and pain. I always wondered why we called the cross Jesus’ passion until I understood that “pati” in Latin means suffering. Compassion-com-pati means “with suffering” or “co-suffering” in Latin. And sometimes we suffer for and with love so passion also has to do with love. We are asked to be people of compassion and we know that suffering and being with people who are suffering is a part of that love.
I have been sent so many loving messages of condolence that I can hardly say thank you to all who sent them. But I am thankful for the words of love and understanding. The heartfelt words of loved ones and friends,the wise words of Joan Chittister, O.S.B and Joyce Rupp (May You Find Comfort) and others are especially good. “May you believe in your ability to eventually heal from your loss,no matter how much loneliness or desolation you now experience” says Rupp. At least the depth of loneliness and desolation are universal and acknowledged. But it was in a “secular” and rather light novel that words finally got through to me. In Debbie Macomber’s “The Trouble with Angels” there is a character, Pastor Paul Morris, who experiences a crisis of faith as his heart is broken and life crushed at the suffering and loss of his beloved wife to cancer. While I have a hard time identifying with or enjoying the happily- ever- after matchmaking in Macomber’s novels I admit that “happy endings” are sometimes a relief and so I read the book. But I sort of flipped through it until Pastor Paul’s struggle hit home like a ton of bricks. His faith, despair and bitterness is spelled out in many ways. Ultimately, Pastor Paul had to assist an elderly couple, Bernard and Madge, where the wife was dying of a similar cancer to Paul’s wife. It was almost too hard for him. I will save some of the punchline in case you read it, but as Madge, a woman of strong faith, is very close to dying she tells Paul that in dying she will be welcomed even as she welcomed her adopted daughter into her home and family, and that she will be healed at last, and that Paul’s wife Barbara is healed-there is no cancer in heaven. Paul reflected that Barbara was indeed free and whole and alive and he was “bound,tied up in doubts,choking on skepticism,gagging on all the trite phrases good people of God had force-fed him.” For him faith and despair became so alike that he could no longer tell the difference. Yet the words “she is healed” brought an epiphany to him. And, in a way, to me as well.
I think also of the recent killing, random shooting by assault rifle, of seventeen high school students,teachers and staff, here in Parkland Florida by a young man with mental illness. I think of the pain of those young people and adults, and of their seventeen families ,friends and community. The coach who was killed died trying to save others as did at least one of the other students.I think of the young man who did it who wants the death penalty taken off the table. I think of the vengeful barbarism of a death penalty. I think of all those who hurt and need forgiveness and peace. I think of personal hurting and of societal hurting, I think of sin and God’s love. And I think of the movement for gun control and against gun violence that students throughout the nation are now taking leadership in birthing. Here I see life after death.
One also may be brokenhearted and crushed at the loss of a just cause. One can mourn for a lost “cause”- justice, peace,racial,class,gender equality, inclusion for all people including the angriest and the mentally ill,for the loss of that which is one’s very life and yet apparently lost. Surely, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., Congresswoman Gabby Giffords who stood against gun violence after being shot and almost killed herself,and Jesus, yes, Jesus, felt that at times the cause for which they lived was truly lost. The lenten readings this week show the injustice of the treatment Jesus received at the hands of the religious and glimpses into how he dealt with this unjust response to his life and ministry. He did what he was compelled to do by Love-like sharing God’s love for the world;healing the man born blind on the Sabbath;healing the son of a non-Jew a ” royal official” who had faith; healing the crippled man on the Sabbath and breaking another Sabbath Law against work on the Sabbath by also instructing the man to “take up his mat and walk”;calling God his beloved Father and acknowledging that he does all by God’s power. Jesus fled to the Galilee to avoid the hatred he received in Judea but even there he was besieged by accusation and religiosity that missed the mark of Love and justice. He then went to Judea, ostensibly for the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, but actually he walked toward his final rejection and crucifixion. How hard that walk, for him for his Abba God. He could not have made that walk at all, except he knew deeply: our God is close to the broken-hearted and the crushed in spirit.
So as we walk toward those things that are most difficult for us, let us join Jesus in knowing deep in our souls: God is close to the brokenhearted.
Blessings to all who mourn, and blessings to all who live Jesus and who live justice as Jesus did. Amen.
Rev. Dr.Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
It has been many months since I have been able to write here. During this time I was deeply privileged to accompany my life partner of almost thirty years and our Co-Pastor at Good Shepherd Ministries, Judy Beaumont as she lived and, on January 1st, 2018, died with AML, a terrible form of Leukemia. I witnessed her fighting, adapting to difficult changes, blessing all who came near and living a life of love and service until the end. When Bridget Mary, ARCWP Bishop spoke to us of angels and loved ones surrounding Judy said that she did not know yet about that but she did know God is there and will be there. And in that sure knowledge she lived and died-in the arms of God who is Love. As for me,my heart is broken without her, but I do know she is with Love forever and that is comfort. She promised she would be my angel if God wanted this, and I believe she is our angel now. She was this while here for all who needed her, especially the poorest and most broken and she is with us now.
Above, at Christmas 2015, she is enjoying our Christmas Santa at Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with Advanced High Risk MDS,the precursor of AML diagnosed after a failed experimental trial in April of 2017. Yet her joy and smile light up our lives always.
Above she is celebrating another Holy Season with members of our Good Shepherd Community
The Memorial Mass for Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP was at St. Andrew UCC Church in Sarasota, Florida and Rev. Judith McKloskey , RCWP, living now in Missouri with winters in Bonita Springs, Florida presided with Bishop Andrea Johnson, RCWP East and Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP also co-Pastor of Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community that meets at St. Andrew Church in Sarasota every Saturday. We are so thankful to St. Andrew and Mary Mother of Jesus communities for welcoming us for a beautiful liturgy and Reception Dinner catered by our friends Kathy Roddy of North Fort Myers and Cyrillia Rismay of St. Lucia, TWI. Judy Alves read the prayers of the people. Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez also assisted by reading the Gospel in Spanish. Over thirty members of our Good Shepherd Community and many others numbering about eighty people attended this special Mass and farewell honoring and celebrating the life of Judy Beaumont and hundreds of others sent condolences and made donations to Rev. Joe Irvin’s Bootstraps Ministry with the homeless or the Leukemia Lymphoma Society in her blessed memory.
For the full Liturgy of the Memorial Mass please see Bridget Mary’s BlogSpot for February 6th, 2018.
Below is Jill Bergner who is sharing her reflections about Judy. Jill is Judy’s beloved sister who was with us often and at the end of her time here.
I am also sharing my reflections and giving the homily.
Below, Natasha Terrell, Jim Pellstring and Hank Tessandori do the readings. Hank also sang Ave Maria after Holy Communion.
Judy’s brother Dr. Ed Beaumont and sister, Jill Bergner bring up the gifts.
Rev. Judith McKloskey and Bishops Bridget Mary Meehan and Andrea Johnson lead us in the Eucharistic Liturgy.
Afterward, Pastor Judy Lee mourns with Mary Flowers and family and friends gather to celebrate Pastor Judy Beaumont’s life with a meal and dialogue with a video of highlights of her life. The most moving moment was when ten year old Joelle White, whom we baptized at age three, sang her version of “I Will Take You Home Again Kathleen” with Judy’s name and words adapted by Joelle for Judy.
We love you forever dear Pastor Judy Beaumont, LIVE ON in LOVE!
This article by Suzanne Breen featuring Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, a Roman Catholic WomanPriest, in Ireland is in the Belfast Telegraph on August 21, 2017.
Rebel female bishop on Northern Ireland crusade to recruit women into Catholic priesthood
August 21 2017
“A female Catholic ‘bishop’ excommunicated by the Vatican is in Northern Ireland on a recruitment drive to expand her movement of women priests.
Bridget Mary Meehan said five women who believe they have a vocation had come forward in the Republic and she hoped for a similar number on this side of the border.
“We have 250 women priests and 11 bishops but I’m the only Irish-born one and I would love to change that,” she said. “I ordained a female priest in Scotland in 2009, which was very exciting, but my dream is to come home next year to ordain women in Ireland.
“I believe our movement is in harmony with everything Pope Francis stands for in wanting a more open and inclusive Church.”
The women, who belong to the US-based Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), are defying the Vatican’s ban on female clergy.
Bishop Meehan stressed that although she had been excommunicated, she still saw herself as part of the mainstream Church.
“As an Irish Catholic, Catholicism is in my DNA,” she said.
“This isn’t about leaving the Church, it’s about leading it. This is about moving the Church towards equality and justice and healing the wounds of centuries of sexism.”
She yesterday said Mass at the Oratory, the independent church of rebel cleric Pat Buckley in Larne. He branded opposition to women priests as “sexism dressed up with theology”.
Born in Coolkerry, Co Laois, Meehan was ordained a priest in 2006 and a bishop three years later. The 69-year-old currently ministers in Florida.
Her family support her stance.
“My late father Jack Meehan was 82 when I was ordained. He was very proud of me. He had been a dance band leader in the 1940s and he played music at Masses which I celebrated,” she said.
Bishop Meehan said being branded “a white witch” and facing other insults didn’t bother her.
“I grew up in a conservative Catholic tradition so I see those criticisms as part of the journey we’re all on,” she said.
She rejected the Vatican’s argument that women couldn’t be priests because the 12 Apostles were male. “The risen Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene, not to the Apostles, and called on her to announce the good news of Christianity. Mary Magdalene was the Apostle to the Apostles,” she said.
The ARCWP has significantly expanded from 2002 when seven women were ordained priests on a ship on the River Danube.
The organisation insists its ordinations are valid because the male bishop ordaining the first female bishops has “apostolic succession within the Catholic Church”.
Bishop Meehan was excommunicated in 2007, but insisted: “Our actions are justified because we are disobeying an unjust law. No one can cancel my baptism – it’s equal to that of any bishop, cardinal or Pope.”
Pope Francis has said the Church is unlikely to lift its ban on female priests but he has set up a commission to investigate whether women could be ordained as deacons, giving them the authority to marry couples and baptise babies, but not to celebrate Mass.
While Bishop Meehan sees him as “moving in the right direction”, Buckley is less optimistic. “Even if Francis wanted change, he is surrounded by a conservative cabal who will prevent it,” he said.
“The battle for women priests will be far harder than that for married priests. Opposition isn’t just in the Vatican, it’s extensive at a grassroots level.”
Bishop Meehan urged women who have a vocation to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or arcwp.org
The picture above is Rev. Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan, Bishop ARCWP laying hands on a Deacon
To learn more about Roman Catholic Women Priests and contact other representatives as well you can also go to http://www.romancatholicwomenpriests.org
This is an article by Patsy McGarry from today’s The Irish Times that features Rev. Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP Bishop, as she spreads word of the RCWP Movement in Ireland.
The pictures below show Bishop Bridget Mary leading in activism and also when confirming members of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida in 2012.
Catholic woman bishop on Irish vocations recruitment drive
‘Our bishops have absolutely no authority apart from ordaining’
“The delegation, led by Irish-born Bishop Mary Bridget Meehan, is visiting Ireland to recruit female priests.
about 21 hours ago
Five women who believe they have a vocation to the Catholic priesthood have contacted a US delegation visiting Ireland this month to recruit female priests.
From the US-based Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), the delegation is being led by Irish-born Bishop Mary Bridget Meehan, who is accompanied by Rev Mary Theresa Streck and Rev Joan Chesterfield.
Speaking of the five women seeking ordination, Bishop Meehan told The Irish Times they “already have theology degrees and diplomas in spirituality”.
A Mass celebrated by Bishop Meehan, in a community centre on Dublin’s South Circular, was attended by “35 to 40” people earlier this month, while the delegation met a similar number more recently in Drogheda.
They have also visited Glenstal Abbey at Murroe, Co Limerick, where they met former Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman and Nóirín Ní Riain who was ordained Rev Nóirín Ní Riain, minister in the One Spirit Inter Faith Seminary Foundation, last month. The foundation embraces “the universal truth at the heart of all spiritual traditions”. Ms Ní Riain has a doctorate in theology.
Bishop Meehan said she had also met Limerick parish priest Fr Roy Donovan who last week called for the ordination of women to the Catholic priesthood and objected to the introduction of a male-only permanent diaconate in his Cashel Archdiocese before completion of a report by the papal commission on women deacons.
The meeting with Fr Donovan was “very open” she said, and he had put her in contact with a woman who believes she too has a vocation.
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan was raised to the episcopacy in 2009 at Santa Barbara, California, after ordination to the Catholic priesthood at Pittsburgh in 2006.
Her family is from Crosskerry, near Rathdowney, Co Laois, but they left Ireland for the US in 1956. Nowadays, she holds weekly liturgies , including Mass, at the Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida.
In 2007, she and fellow women priests were excommunicated by Pope Benedict. He decreed that anyone “who attempts to confer a sacred order on a woman, and the woman who attempts to receive a sacred order” was automatically excommunicated. However, this decree has been rejected by the ARCWP.
In North America, there were about 250 Catholic women priests and 11 women bishops, Bishop Meehan said. Their ordinations were valid “because of our apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church”, she said.
This is so because “the principal consecrating Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained our first women bishops is a bishop with apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the Pope. Therefore, our bishops validly ordain deacons, priests and bishops.”
As well as in the US and Canada, the ARCWP has members in Latin America and, increasingly, in the rest of the world.
They seek equality for women in the church at all levels, including at decision-making and ordination levels, and prepare and ordain qualified women (and men) to serve as Catholic priests. Theirs is “a renewal movement” within the church which aims at “full equality for all within” as “a matter of justice and faithfulness to the Gospel”, she said.
Bishop Meehan points out that their model of church “is exactly the opposite” of the current Roman model. For instance, “our bishops have absolutely no authority apart from ordaining [others to priesthood/episcopacy]. It’s like the monastic model,” she said.
She and other members of her delegation are back in Ireland (she has been a regular visitor over the years) “for the month of August” and hope to encourage other women towards ordination while here. They will be “celebrating liturgies and meeting with women’s groups”.
They would also “love a dialogue with the bishops” in Ireland and believe there is “a new spirit in the church” since the election of Pope Francis in 2013. They feel “in harmony with a lot of what Pope Francis is saying”….”
Note: For more information on RCWP and women in the priesthood you may contact:
rcwp.org and arcwp.org
I was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest on July 20th, 2008 in Boston.In doing so I answered a strong and persistent call to serve as Priest and Pastor to the homeless and hungry and outcast of my community,my long time ministry. It took some courage to get out of the boat that the traditional church offered when one followed all the rules, as I am a woman breaking one of the rules about who can be ordained and there are penalties to pay.
My inspirational Priest mentor at that time was Bridget Mary Meehan and then we were part of the Southern Region of RCWP, Roman Catholic WomenPriests in the United States. The metaphor she gave me was the Gospel for today: Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus walking on water in the midst of the terrible storm, and Peter having the faith to get out of the boat and walk toward him, even for a little while. We left the safety of the boat behind and entered the storm keeping our eyes on Jesus. In our diocese in Florida I received two letters of excommunication and had to cut myself off from the parish I loved so as not to put others in awkward positions. I was also aware of the ton of “hate mail” Bridget Mary received in talking about this on her blog. More recently I have been treated to the same thing. While this is balanced by “love mail” as well, or thoughtful letters of eye opening acceptance and good dialogue)it is simply part of the storm and Jesus is still there with his hand out for us.
Accepting Holy Orders felt like walking on water to her and it felt like that to me, I think it feels like that to many of the 250 or more ordained members of Roman Catholic WomenPriests throughout the world.And no matter how many times we lose sight of Jesus and fall in the raging sea battling for our lives, we are lifted up and continue the walk.
One of the homeless men I worked with in our out door ministry in a local park was a fine artist. He struggled with extreme anxiety and mental illness, but he was able to bring beautiful art work to light in the midst of his dark stormy periods. He was able to be calm and gather his thoughts with me and we were able to help him get into senior housing. In thankfulness he offered a pastel drawing. He understood and liked the image of walking on water toward Jesus’ outstretched hand. He had done this himself in his own way. He wanted to paint a picture of a woman priest doing this. I gave him a picture of Bridget Mary and he did an excellent rendition of her doing this. In his picture the storm was gone and beautiful lights appeared as she walked confidently on the water toward Jesus. She is now a Bishop and she continues to walk in confidence and that drawing hangs on the wall of her home where often people gather to worship.
Yet the dark storms of all of our lives as human beings on this planet present challenges to our faith. Storms come in familial and personal crises, in illness and in loss. In anticipatory grief and in grief. In poor living conditions and in poverty. Yet storms come for the rich as well as the poor the same rain falling on all-although it is easier to face the storms when you can at least get inside-millions of homeless in our land of plenty can not easily do this. Storms rage in simply living in a world where intolerance of difference is increasingly acceptable and where little provision is made for those who have little personal resources and financial means. One of our church families is shattered as a mother of a large family who successfully but barely made ends meet and yet offered her beautiful gifts with small children and perseverance to the church has advanced cancer and is receiving extremely poor and disjointed health services threatening her life. We have tried to help in spiritual,pastoral and practical ways also doing and teaching actual system’s negotiation guidance and activities, but there is a heavy sinking here. The American health care system for the poor and working poor is a horror. The storm is raging and it hits all of us. In my own life,also facing the cancer battle of my life partner, Pastor Judy Beaumont, RCWP, who is also our beloved and once tireless co-Pastor at Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community leaves me treading water.
And so I present here the sermon on today’s Gospel that meant the most to me today. This appears on the Deni Doulos blog today. Thank you, Rev. Deniray!
Rev. Deniray Mueller an Episcopal Vocational Deacon in Ohio who knows the storms of women in the clergy and of women of difference and of the homeless challenges us here to get out of the boat and to keep our eyes on Jesus. She includes reflection on the moral and actual horrors that occurred yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the hatred and bigotry of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis set the stage for violent tragedy and moral outrage. She notes so well that Jesus is not in the boat in this Gospel, but in the heart of the storm. Thank God for that!
Blessings to each of you as you walk on water,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co_Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
To Walk on Water You Gotta Get out of the Boat!
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you and call us to action, our Creator and Sustainer.
In today’s gospel of Matthew it was pointed out that the wind was very strong and the waves were very high, but Peter did not notice them at first. In his excitement at recognizing his Lord he stepped out of the boat and walked on the water. When he realized what he was actually doing and he instantly sank. Glub! Glub!
Did Peter sink because he didn’t have enough faith as Jesus accused him when he said
‘oh, ye of little faith’? (Matthew 14:31)
I don’t think so.
The first thing I think is important to clear up is that, at least to me, “faith” or “belief” doesn’t mean belief in an expected outcome, but rather trust in another person. Believing in Jesus does not mean believing that we’ll be “successful” (however we define that!) in whatever it is that Jesus is calling us to do. Nor does having faith IN Jesus imply blithely signing off on a list of statements ABOUT Jesus, His teachings, His examples, and His call to us. Having faith in Jesus means a willingness to follow Jesus. To have faith isn’t an activity of the brain so much as a feeling of the heart. In other words, faith is about doing. A faithful person eventually gets to the point where they can say to God, “I don’t know where you’re going, but I know that wherever it is, I’d rather be drowning with you than anywhere else.” In my own life, that kind of trust in Jesus comes from knowing Jesus. The kind of trust I have in Jesus has come as I’ve experienced Jesus’ generosity and mercy. That process of building confidence, of getting to know Jesus so deeply that I can trust Jesus, is part of what I call the “journey of faith”.
When I say that faith is ‘doing’, what I mean is that I believe faith begins with action, with taking a step, with taking a risk. The best intentions in the world don’t do much without action, but taking that step, even with mixed or unclear intentions, or sometimes great fear, just might give you the experience of meeting God on the road, in a dark valley, or at sea.
So, if you want to walk on water, you gotta get out of the boat!.
But there is a lot of risk in doing so.
Water Walkers Will Face Storms
When you are serving God, and trying to be obedient to Christ, you will have to face storms of trials and difficulties. Even as you sit here today, you may be going through a personal storm. And in almost every instance, it is hard to see God’s hand and love as you weather those storms. Maybe it’s financial problems, or problems in a relationship; you might be having family problems, or problems at your job or school. We all have storms in our lives. Anyone who tells you that leading a true Christian life is smooth sailing – that life is easy or your worries disappear – doesn’t understand what the Bible teaches about serving the Lord. 2 Timothy 3:12 says,
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Remember, the disciples were in a storm because they were trying to be obedient to Jesus. Matthew 14:22 says
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side.
And they did, or at least they tried to. And many hours later they hadn’t made much progress. So, remember, obedient water walkers will face storms.
Water Walkers Recognize God’s Presence
Jesus wanted to be alone to pray, so He sent the disciples ahead without him. To them it was no big deal – they used boats for fishing on a daily basis. But this huge storm blew in – bigger than most storms. Matthew says that the boat was battered by the waves (Matthew 14:24). The storm was so violent that the disciples could barely keep the boat upright.
I can imagine that they wished the sides of the boat were a little higher and the wood a little thicker. Deep in the night, the storm was getting really bad. I can imagine that at that point they weren’t worried about making it to the other side – they just wanted to stay alive. The disciples were in great fear and deep distress. It is about this time that Jesus decided to come toward them.
It’s interesting – Jesus wasn’t in a boat and the disciples didn’t recognize him. The disciples were convinced he was a ghost, so they were terrified and cried out in fear. But Matthew wanted us to know that sometimes it is only with the eyes of faith that we can fully recognize when Jesus is present.
Often, our own lives are tormented by waves of disappointment and doubt. And we are usually no better at recognizing His presence than the disciples were.
What was Jesus up to, walking around on the sea in the middle of a stormy night?
He saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them. Yet when Jesus came to the disciples on the water, he was not just doing a neat magic trick. He was revealing His divine presence and power.
It is interesting that the disciples took the boat out in the first place at Jesus’ command. They would have to learn, as we all do, that obedience is no guarantee of being spared adversity. But as the storm gained their full attention, Jesus decided that it was time for the disciples to get to know a little bit more about the one who was really piloting this storm.
Basically, Jesus wanted them to be able to also trust Him in the storms. The problem was “they just didn’t get it.”
God was visiting them while walking on the water but they didn’t see it; for us, Jesus often comes when least expected – in the middle of a storm. I believe that extreme stress can be a frequent meeting place with God. These are those divinely-appointed defining moments that come into all of our lives. And, if you’re not looking for Him, if you cannot acknowledge that He can be there in the storm, you might just miss Him.
Twelve disciples sat in the boat; we don’t know how the other eleven responded to Jesus’ voice. Were they confused?
Did they respond with wonder?
Or perhaps a little of each! But one of them, Peter, was about to become a water walker. He recognized that God was present – even in the most unlikely place, and he rushed to meet his Lord, oblivious to the risk – never questioning that Jesus was walking on water, only realizing that He was there.
Water Walkers Know the Difference Between Faith and Foolishness
Peter blurted out to Jesus,
“if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28)
Why doesn’t Peter just plunge into the water? This is not just a story about risk taking; it is also a story about obedience. That means we will have to determine an authentic call from God and what might simply be a foolish impulse on our part. Courage alone is not enough; it must be accompanied by wisdom and discernment. This is not a story about extreme actions; it’s about extreme discipleship! This means that before Peter gets out of the boat – he had better make sure Jesus thinks it’s a good idea. So, he asks for clarity,
“if it is you, command me…” (Matthew 14:28)
Peter had enough faith to believe that he too could share in the eternal mystery and power of the Savior of mankind. That if Jesus commanded him to do something, no matter how difficult or extreme, he could do it.
Water walkers will face storms; water walkers recognize God’s presence; water walkers acknowledge the difference between faith and foolishness.
Water Walkers MUST Get Out of the Boat
Put yourself in this story; picture in your mind how violent the storm must have been. It was strong enough to keep seasoned professional fishermen struggling just to avoid being capsized. Imagine the size of the waves, the strength of the wind, the darkness of this night. These were the conditions under which Peter was going to get out of the boat. It would be tough enough to try to walk on water when the water is calm, the sun is bright, and the air is still. Imagine trying to do it when the waves are crashing, the wind is at gale force, it’s pitch black and you are terrified!
Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. You have a sudden insight into what Jesus is doing. Jesus is inviting you to go on the adventure of your life. But at the same time, you’re scared to death. What would you choose – the water or the boat? The boat is safe, more secure, and certainly more comfortable. The water is rough and the waves are high, the wind is strong; there’s a storm out there. And if you get out of the boat – whatever your boat happens to be – there’s a good chance you might sink! But if you don’t get out of the boat there’s a guaranteed certainty that you will never walk on the water. If you want to walk on water – you gotta get out of the boat. I believe there is something – some voice inside us – that assures us there is more to life than sitting in the boat.
You and I were made for something more than merely avoiding failure. There’s something inside us that wants us to walk on the water – to leave the comfort of mere existence and abandon ourselves to the higher adventure of following God. So, let me ask you a very important question:
What is your boat?
your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself;
your boat is whatever you are tempted to cling to, especially when life gets a little stormy;
your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up, even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus in a miraculous and transforming journey;
your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship.
Do you want to know what your boat is?
Your fear will tell you. Just ask yourself this: what is it that most produces fear in me?
Fear of failure or loss of dignity?
Fear of judgment or making a mistake?
Fear or being seen as a fool or fanatic?
In what area(s) of your life are you shrinking back from fully and courageously trusting God? Fear will tell you what your boat is. Leaving it may be the hardest thing you will ever do. But if you want to walk on the water, you gotta get out of the boat!
Remember: Water walkers will face storms; water walkers recognize God’s presence; water walkers know the difference between faith and foolishness; water walkers get out of the boat.
Water Walkers Face Their Fears to Grow
So, Peter goes to the side of the boat. The other disciples are watching closely. They wonder how far he will take this thing. One can imagine he put one foot over the side, carefully gripping the edge of the boat. Then he put the other foot over the boat; he’s holding on for dear life.
For a while it’s as if Peter and Jesus are present on the water. Peter is beaming with delight. Jesus is thrilled with his student – like master, like disciple. Then it happens – Peter saw and felt the wind. Reality set in, and Peter surely asked himself, “what was I thinking?” He realized he was standing on the water in the middle of a storm with no boat beneath him – and he was terrified!
Nothing had really changed. The storm shouldn’t have been a surprise – it had been there all along. What really had taken place was that Peter’s focus had shifted from Jesus to the storm.
We are all the same. We start something filled with hope, then reality sets in. Setbacks. . . Opposition. . . . Unexpected obstacles. We see and feel the wind.
It should be expected. The world’s a pretty stormy place. But somehow trouble still has the power to catch us by surprise. Because of the wind. some people decide to never leave the boat. If you get out of the boat, you will face the wind and the storms out there. But you should know there is no guarantee that life in the boat is going to be any safer, it is just more limited, finite, full of fear and doubt.
Peter faced a choice, as we all do. The choice to follow Jesus – the choice to grow – the choice to overcome fear. You’ve gotta get out of the boat a little every day! Here’s a deep truth about water walking: the fear never goes away, it is always lurking there.
Why? Because each time you want to grow, it will involve going into new territory, taking on new challenges. And each time you do that, you will experience fear again. As you see in this story… you will always have choices…
risk vs. security
exhilaration vs. comfort.
Yet, every time you get out of the boat, you become a little more likely to get out the next time. It’s not that the fear goes away, but that you get used to dealing with fear. And each time fear loses its power to destroy you. On the other hand, every time you resist that voice, every time you choose to stay in the boat rather than heed its call, the voice gets a little quieter and further away.
Then, at last you may not hear its call at all.
Water Walkers Master Failure
As a result of seeing the wind and giving in to fear, Peter began to sink into the water. So here is the question: Did Peter fail? Before I offer you an answer, let me make an observation about failure.
Failure is not an event, but rather a judgment about an event. Failure is not something that happens to us, or a label we attach to things. It is a way we think about outcomes.
Did you know that:
Before Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio that finally worked, he tried 200 unsuccessful times.
When Thomas Edison was branded a failure in his attempts to create a light bulb he said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Before James Dyson invented the perfect vacuum cleaner he went through 5,127 prototypes.
So… did Peter fail? Probably.
He took his eyes off the Lord and sank. But I think there were eleven greater failures sitting in the boat. At least Peter got out of the boat and into the water and walked toward Jesus – and even for a short time he DID walk on the water.
Peter did not fail because he got out of the boat. The saddest failure is to never get out of the boat! Water walkers see failure as an opportunity to grow. As soon as Peter asks for help, Jesus was there.
“Lord… save me.” (Matthew 14:30)
Jesus helped him physically by pulling him out of the water. But he also helped Peter grow by identifying his problem:
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)
I don’t think Jesus was being harsh or critical here. Jesus made this comment to Peter while they were still out on the water alone. Jesus didn’t embarrass him in front of his fellow disciples. The problem was clear: whether Peter sank into or walked on the water depended on whether he focused on the storm or on Jesus. Whether he focused on his own limitations and doubts or believed that Jesus would help him overcome these limitation and doubts.
It was Peter’s willingness to risk failure that helped him to grow. Failure is an indispensable, irreplaceable part of learning and growth. Failure doesn’t shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you.
Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of the boat.
So, why should you risk it?
it is the only way to real growth
it is the way true faith develops
it is part of discovering your reason for being and answering your own calling.
I believe that there are many good reasons to get out of the boat. But there is one that stands above them all. . .
the water is where Jesus is.
Jesus is not in the boat!
The water may be dark, wet, and dangerous. But remember, Jesus is not in the boat.
Peter’s request was,
“Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you.” Then Peter got out of the boat and came toward Jesus. (Matthew 14:28)
Because Peter did this – got out of the boat – he came to a deeper understanding of His Master than ever before.
So, how about you? When was the last time you got out of the boat?
The call to get out of the boat involves discomfort, often disappointment, perhaps some failure, fear and sometimes suffering. It is always a call for a task too big for us. But there is no other way to grow closer to God!
We saw the underbelly of American the last two days in Charlottesville, Virginia. People who now feel that they have ‘permission’, even support from people in the government, to spew their hatred and bigotry and racism openly and violently. We saw armed militias carrying Confederate flags marching in goosesteps, white supremacists shouting angry slogans, members of the KKK no longer hiding under bedsheets, but openly proclaiming their part in the election of the president and their right to return America to a white, Christian nation. Hatred consumed these people; something that is NOT a Christian value.
And most tragic of all, we saw a young person from Maumee, Ohio, deliberately drove his car into a group of peaceful counter-protestors, killing at least one innocent bystander just trying to cross the street, and injuring scores of others, some who may still succumb to their injuries. This kind of hatred and violence does not only happen ‘somewhere else’, but right here in our state and our communities. We need to stand against this.
But we also saw a group of people of faith joined together (Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists and others) singing This little light of mine in love and fellowship to counter the vitriolic chants of the ultra-conservative Alt-Right, Neo-Nazis, KKK, nationalists, white supremacy, armed militia, and people angry because Charlottesville wants to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from a park called ‘Emancipation Park’.
Most of us cannot make any sense or see any justifiable reason for the actions of those who chose to create discord and spew bigotry and hatred and xenophobia. But, those people of faith chose to take the risk, get out there, arms joined together in solidarity, and do what was right. They chose to get out of the boat! – to risk life and limb to present to the world what the love and teachings of Jesus really are.
They got out of the boat!
So where are you this morning?
Huddled in the boat with a life jacket and your seat belt on?
One leg in, one leg out?
Out of the boat, but fearful, still clinging to the edge?
Or looking with faith into the eyes of Jesus and walking on water?
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, help us to walk with you wherever this life may take us. Help us to recognize whatever it is that:
Helps us to seek you,
Helps us to trust you,
Helps us to obey your teachings.
Help us to face our fears and trust whatever the storms of life may be, You are there, guiding and redeeming us. Be with those who have died and are injured physically and emotionally from this horrid incident in Charlottesville. Wrap your loving arms around them and the rest of the nation, reminding us that
The greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
And give us the strength to get out of the boat.
Delivered at Saint John’s Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 13 August
Here we share this thoughtful commentary by New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0) on a letter by Pope Francis giving his blessing to the adopted family of a married gay couple in Brazil. Congratulations and blessings to the Reis-Harrad family!
In the picture below are Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Roman Catholic Woman Priest Janice Sevre-Dusynska speaking truth to power at a rally. Here Fr. Roy is standing for compassion to the LGBTQ community, and for women in the priesthood. Fr. Roy a former Maryknoll priest is a lifelong witness and fighter for justice and peace. His inclusion of accepting women priests in the RC Church as one of his concerns has earned him excommunication from the Church but never from the love of Christ. His active witness continues. Readers might be interested in his book: My Journey from Silence to Solidarity Edited by Margaret Knapke, 2012, Published by fxBEAR Yellow Springs, Ohio- online see: http://www.roybourgeoisjourney.org
Here is the concluding line of a letter Fr. Roy wrote to Pope John Paul ll in 1995: “….Jesus was a person of compassion. He went about healing the suffering of others and excluded no one. I pray that you, as our Pope, will have the courage to follow in his footsteps. I appeal to you to please change these policies which are causing so much needless suffering and division in our Church today…”
Fr. Roy also said: “And lastly,whatI do know is that the ordination of women in the Catholic Church is inevitable, because it is rooted in love, justice and equality”. Amen and thank you, Fr. Roy.
From Bondings 2.0:
Pope Congratulates, Blesses Gay Couple on the Baptism of Their Adopted Children
by Francis DeBernardo, Editor
Pope Francis, through an aide, has sent his congratulations and apostolic blessing to a legally married Brazilian gay couple on the occasion of the baptism of their three adopted children.
The Reis-Harrad family with the parish priest after the three children’s baptism.
According to Business Monkey News (the only immediately available English language news story), Toni Reis and David Harrad received a letter from Monsignor Paolo Borgia, advisor to the Secretary of State Vatican, which read in part:
“Pope Francisco wishes you congratulations, calling for his family abundance of divine graces, to live constantly and faithfully the condition of Christians.”
The couple, who were married in 2011, and they adopted three children–Alyson, Jessica, Felipe–between 2012 and 2014. They wrote to the pope in the spring of 2017, informing him of the upcoming baptism of their children, who are now young teens. They live in the city of Curitiba in Brazil’s Paraná state.
Reis posted a photo of the letter on his Facebook page.
20620900_1908359132785962_6362050348424843834_nThough the Vatican is downplaying the significance of the letter, saying the pope responds to many of the personal letters he receives, its impact on pastoral care cannot be underestimated.
Pope Francis knows the impact that his messages, even personal ones for private occasions, will have around the world. He is savvy enough, based on his history of making headlines with LGBT-positive statements, to know that his gesture would be made public.
The way I see it, Pope Francis is giving a clear message to bishops, priests, and pastoral ministers around the world about how they should treat families headed by gay and lesbian couples. His message is “welcome and bless.”
I am not under any illusion that Pope Francis approves, theologically, of same-gender marriages. Indeed, he has publicly opposed laws intended to spread marriage equality.
But, he has consistently promoted a positive pastoral response to LGBT people and their families. He seems to recognize that there is a difference between political reality and personal reality, and he is courageous enough to respond positively to the personal reality, even if it conflicts with his political ideas.
Our bishops need to follow his example. Of course, the first to come to mind is Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, who made headlines last month because of his draconian barring of married lesbian and gay people from most of parish life. As we’ve noted before, Bishop Paprocki could learn from Bishop Patrick McGrath of San Jose, California, who instructed his priests to not “not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith.”
The words of Toni Reis should ring in the ears of bishops and LGBT people around the world:
“It is a great advance for an institution that burned gays burned during the Inquisition and now sends us an official letter congratulating our family. I am very happy, as I can die in peace.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, August 9, 2017