Gospel For Today: 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time


​I had the privilege yesterday of leading several faith formation catechists on a retreat to help them prepare for the start of a new school year.  These are people who volunteer their time preparing children to receive the sacraments, teaching them the faith, and leading them closer to Christ.  In sharing both the struggles and joys of their ministry, one catechist remarked that whenever she felt frustrated or discouraged it was usually because she was trying to do it all herself.  She did not mean that others in the parish were not helping her.  What she meant was that she was carrying the full responsibility of bringing these children to Christ on her own shoulders.  She was forgetting that God has a role to play.  It is Christ who saves them, after all, not her.

I can relate.  In campus ministry, as with any ministry, there are ups and downs.  The work can feel like a burden or a privilege.  The times when I feel discouraged are precisely those times when I hold the reigns too closely; when I get caught up in the mundane minutia of the job and forget to spend time in the chapel praying for the ministry.  The times when I feel a great energy in our campus ministry are those times when I make the effort each day to pray for God’s guidance.  I remind myself that He is in charge, and trust Him to lead the way.
In ministry, we need to always remember to stay focused on Christ and learn to rely on Him.  But isn’t this true in any task we undertake?  It is not only those laboring in ministry that need to spend time in prayer each day and ask for God’s help.  Shouldn’t it also be true of the doctor going into surgery?  Shouldn’t it also be true of the bus driver transporting kids to school?  Shouldn’t it also be true of the college professor making a lesson plan?  Shouldn’t it also be true of the student preparing to study?
No matter what your task in life is at the moment, that task will be less burdensome, more joyful, and more pleasing to God if you rely on Christ to help you.  In transitioning to a college life, it can be very easy to lose sight of this.  You are away from home and your normal routine.  You are meeting new people, getting used to a new schedule, adapting to a new environment.  This early stage in the semester can be a time of excitement, chaos, anxiety, and anticipation.  It would be very easy to abandon your usual prayer routine.  It would be very easy to not think about Jesus for a while.  It would be very easy to start bad habits that will become hard to break out of later on.
But this time of transition is also a great opportunity to establish some wonderful new habits.  You will be making new friends on campus.  Find some good Catholic friends.  You will be getting used to a new schedule. Go ahead and put prayer time in your schedule, and time for CCM events.  You will be taking on new adult responsibilities for yourself.  So make an adult commitment to the faith.  Decide to get serious about your relationship with God.  Develop a devotion to Him not because that’s what your parents expect of you but because you love Him.  Make that choice.
Ask Jesus to help you.  Ask Him to help you stay faithful and grow in holiness and wisdom during your time in college.  Ask Him to help you with your studies.  Ask Him to help with your relationships.  Just ask Him to help.
In today’s gospel reading from Matthew 14:22-33, people always remember the miracle of Jesus walking on the water.  But the more impressive miracle is not that Jesus walked on the water, but that Peter did.  Jesus, after all, is the Son of God.  He made the water. He made walking, for that matter.  We shouldn’t be surprised that He can walk on whatever He wishes.  Peter is just a man.  He’s a faulty, fallen, frail human being just like us.  But Peter had the courage and conviction to say, “Lord, if you command me to, I will come out to you on the water.”
How often do we hold back from asking the Lord to help us do something, because we are afraid God will say yes, and then actually expect us to do it?  “Lord, command me to come to you on the water.”  What a ridiculous request, on the face of it.  Walking on the water?  That’s impossible!  But Peter did it.  He only fell when he became distracted by the storm raging around him.  He allowed fear to take hold of him.  But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”  When Peter kept his focus on Christ, the miraculous happened.
Your time in college can be a time of great turmoil and stress.  You can feel tossed about by the waves, like the disciples’ boat in our reading today.  But do not be afraid.  If you keep your focus on Christ and rely on God’s help, you can achieve some seemingly impossible things.  Don’t get distracted by the storm and lose sight of what matters.  Cling close to Christ.  You just might walk on water.

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723