It seems like for me, and I imagine a lot of other folks, that when times of trouble come, and they do come, my practice of faith gets neglected. I tend to pray less or not at all, I fail the fast, my temper is shortened and it boils my blood as I practice loving myself more than others, and I hide in the shadows of the world binding my wounds and feeling forgotten and abandoned by God! Where is my faith? Where is my salvific practice?
As I stand on the bow of Orthodoxy sailing Eastward, I try to reflect upon my past struggles and thank God that He did not forsake me. I was not always able to see Him in the midst of the storm but at some instant when I quit panicking and surrendered my quest for control and then started my return back to the practice of faith that we Orthodox know, His loving presence was evident and had been there all along! I had doubted God, but He had not doubted me!
We hear the word “doubt” in the Gospel reading this morning. The Greek word for doubt here in the Gospel means wavering or hesitation. Peter sailing through the lake in the midst of a mighty storm began to waiver (Matthew 14:31). Our Lord was not visibly with him and Peter doubted, just like we do when a test comes. Just like we do when we find ourselves in an unfamiliar situation or a trial of our faith and we ask ourselves, where is God? Why am I alone?
And then in the fourth watch Jesus appeared. The Fathers explain that there are four steps to His divine mercy: in the first watch of the night God sent the Law to Israel; at the second watch, He sent the prophets; at the third watch, He gave His Son to the world; at the fourth watch of the night, when we are doubting and ready to give up, He comes back in glory to lead us into His Kingdom.
I think we have all been blown around by violent storms. We have thought to ourselves, I don’t think I am going to make it, or we think when people find out how messed up we truly are and what terrible choices we have made, they are not going to love us and cast us out with the demons! We all struggle. The crafty serpent entices us all by the rotten fruit of temptation. He tempted us when mankind was in his purist form and he is certainly working over-time distracting us now! We daily navigate the currents of sin-infested waters luring us to take our eyes from Christ and instead focus on our own abilities and past failures. Saint Kosmas said: “the fear of God compels us to fight against evil; and when we fight against evil, the grace of God destroys it.” (St. Kosmos Aitolos +1779)
O thou of so little faith, why do you doubt? Do you not know that you are deeply loved? Glory to Thee, O Lord, Glory to Thee!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 7-29-18