Of all the stories and all the miracles in the Scriptures, the recounting of Saint Peter’s walk on top of the ocean tops the list of those that capture my imagination. I hope (and secretly suspect) that I’m not the only one who has from time to time walked up to the ocean’s edge at the beach, looked furtively side to side and then put my foot out tentatively in the hope that this time, it wouldn’t penetrate the surface.
What an amazing moment it must have been for Saint Peter to actually walk on water. The moment of doubting Christ’s identity passed, now the invitation is given: ‘Come.” So Peter steps out (furtively, I wonder?) and stands on top of the water. What delight must have come to him! How neat would it be to walk on the waves, learning to adjust to the oceans’ constant up and down? It puts a whole new spin on gaining your sea legs. But even falling down wouldn’t be so bad – it’s just water! I like to think that Saint Peter laughed a bit, both with delight and at his own clumsiness as he approached Jesus.
And then the reality of his surroundings kicks in. The water isn’t just bobbing, its fiercely spraying and colliding with itself, throwing the boat up and down. The wind is beating at his back and the sky is dark and threatening. And Peter got scared, no doubt fearing for himself. And he started to sink.
In the average parish, summertime kicks off a joyful season for the community – weddings. It’s a particular joy to witness the promises of husband and wife. All of the preparations for the big day, the long months and years of dating, the years of searching that all lead to this point. Weddings are a blast, both solemn and silly, mixing joy, goofiness, God and the sacrament into a great day.
I often wonder at the end of the celebration about how it must be for these couples the day after. The peaceful joy of waking up and knowing that it was all real, that they have all of their lives ahead of them – together. What a delight and a joy that must be.
Like Saint Peter, however, there is a danger that threatens this delight. Fears are always ready to poison even the most promising of marriages. Perhaps it is a fear of another relationship, suspicions, conflict – whatever – but if permitted to remain in one or both of their minds, fear can tank a marriage.
There is a particular fear that I would like to address today: the fear of childen. Not that children are scary themselves, but the fear of having children. How many couples fear what that might mean for them. Maybe it’s the fear of lost opportunity, the fear of not having enough, the fear of complications – or some other, nameless fear.
While these fears are real, and worthy of attention, we as a society have bought into a lie that is presented as a “solution” – contraception.
Why bring this up, and now? Because this last week, here in the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services decreed that starting August 1st, 2012, every insurance company in the company would be required to cover contraceptions free of charge. Moreover, the exemptions for religious providers is so narrow that the bishops have already realized that Catholic institutions would not qualify. Every Catholic organization would be required to provide and pay for something that we know is contrary to God’s plan for genuine marital intimacy.
How did we get here?
The reality is that we have allowed fear into our faith, both personally and as a group. So many spouses have bought into the lie that contraception will address their fears and give them peace. And as the Body of Christ, we have bought into the lie that by not speaking out, we will avoid our fear of being mocked, ridiculed, shunned or mistreated. Neither of these lies has served us well.
My goal in saying these things is not to present a picture of doom and despair. Even as Peter was sinking, Jesus was there beside him and immediately pulled him up. And we also can receive that same Divine assistance. With regards to this mandate, we have just under a year to take courage and contact our government – demanding that our faith and knowledge of Truth be honored.
As people of faith, we can – at any time – turn again to God and trust that He will provide for our marriages and our families.
Fear poisons everything. And it prevents us from experiencing the delight at the wonders God has in store for us when we place our trust in Him. And how strongly we desire to know that joy!
Jesus extends the invitation “Come”. We must respond with trust, and like the disciples, recognize that He is the Son of God, who came so that we might know how much God cares for us, and takes care of all of our needs.
Afterthoughts (given after the Mass when this homily was preached)
I know that as I say these things, there are Catholics who find themselves struggling with or even opposed to the Church’s teaching present here. I want to speak directly to you. I would like the opportunity to talk to you more personally and privately about why the Church teaches what it does, and what that means for marriages. I can tell you that this is not about a set of ‘don’ts’, but about the true gift of marital intimacy. Please take the time to call me, or a priest you trust. I don’t bite and I don’t judge; but I do want to chance to explain the whys of our faith.
To all of us, I want to encourage and exhort you to read about the current events and developments concerning the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision. The USCCB Media Blog is a great place to start. The Catechism should be a part of your research as well.
As Catholics, we make up a significant bloc of voters in this country – more than all of the other Christian denominations combined. Imagine what good we could accomplish if we were united and vocal about our faith.