Msgr Marucci's Weekly Message

FROM THE PASTOR’S DESK -   19th Sunday in Ordinary Time   August 12-13, 2017

Many years ago one of my former parishioners invited me to come to their home for a special dinner.  It happened that the parishioner’s cousin, a priest from Australia, was coming for a visit, and they thought it would be extremely worthwhile for the two of us to meet, as their priest-cousin had also been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  Although we were both diagnosed around the same time, and both were ordained priests, there was one significant difference between the two us.  Even though he still had the ability to walk, his attitude toward his disability was so negative that it actually debilitated him, more than the actual disease.     

MS is a difficult disease as the onset usually impacts a person in the prime of their life.  It can be frustrating because one could be perfectly fine at one moment, and lose function the next moment.  It is a disease that presents a diversity of symptoms among different people.  I must be honest and admit that my early diagnosis was not a bed of roses, but my journey through life, with the Lord, has made the journey possible.

            What surprised me about the other priest was the very bitter attitude he adopted toward life.  His bitterness stemmed from the inability to accept his personal circumstances.  I certainly understand the frustrations people do experience while living with a chronic illness. But after living with the illness for several years, people tend to find ways to cope with their circumstances which ideally leads to acceptance.  Unfortunately, his bitterness toward life was so evident; I could see that he simply pushed everyone away that may have been close to him.  The anger was so obvious, that he made it uncomfortable for people to be in his presence. 

As the dinner progressed, he asked me a very blatant question: “So, what’s your secret? How come you seem so resolved?”  I sat quietly and then responded “Because I realize that the blessings I have in my life far outweigh the burdens. And that brings me much happiness, joy, and peace, despite the difficult challenges that may surface on any given day.  I continued, “My reliance on the Lord is what carries me through life.  During the stormy times of my life, I choose to focus on the Savior, and never the storm.” 

            We see a similar choice in today’s Gospel Reading.  In the Gospel note the characteristic flaw that often resulted with Peter getting into trouble.  In today’s story, Peter in his excitement and impulsivity, asked to walk across the water.  But, “When he perceived how strong the wind was, he became frightened and began to sink and cried out, Lord save me!”  Peter, as usual, became overwhelmed by his circumstances and gazed at the storm.  But, our Lord immediately stretched out His hand to catch the faltering Apostle.

            The Last Supper, and the later tragic betrayal, is yet another example of St. Peter’s tendency to become overwhelmed by his circumstances.  Although he could not have been more certain in his statement of support of Christ at the Last Supper, when faced with a curious servant girl, his courage rapidly faltered.  We can feel very close to St. Peter in all this.  We might have said and done the same things in an enthusiastic burst of faith, only to find, as he did, that such over-enthusiasm does not necessarily hold up.

            In today’s Gospel account, as in many others, St. Peter wins us over by his humanity—for he is so like us in his weaknesses.  It is very consoling, then, to realize that Christ chose him to be the first leader of the Church.  Our Lord singled out a man of obvious shortcomings, and therefore, a man very aware of his human limitations.

            We know that fidelity to the Lord is a necessity for a good leader.  Christ understood this.  He also knew that Peter simply needed tempering, to become the “rock” St. Peter proved to be after Christ’s Ascension.  But we might also conclude that in singling Peter out, Christ wanted to help us see our own weaknesses in a less negative light.  He hopes we can learn to accept them with patience, as Peter did, and strive to achieve significant things; despite them.

            It is deeply comforting, when we are frustrated and disappointed with ourselves, to realize that St. Peter’s courage also grew faint.  Even more reassuring, is Christ’s constant understanding and support of St. Peter.  We can be secure in the knowledge that Christ extends the same warm hand to catch us whenever we feel we may falter.  As he understood and accepted Peter’s weakness, so he always understands and saves us. 

            And so….What is my secret?  It is simple.  I learned a great life lesson from the powerful St. Peter.  During the storms of life, when our circumstances overwhelm us, we have two choices.  We either gaze at the storm, and sink; or we gaze at the Lord, who holds us in the palm of his hand.  If we focus only on the storm, we will ultimately drown in the sea of life; If we focus on the Lord, we find assurance in his comfort and peace, (both this worldly and the next). The second life lesson that I glean from this passage is this… “The difference between happiness and sadness never lies in your circumstances, but always in your attitude.”  Like St. Peter, all we have to do during the stormy times of our lives is to call out to Jesus, and He extends His hand to lift us up.  That does not mean the storm ends, but there is great comfort when we allow the Lord to carry us through the stormy times of our lives. Thus, we discover an attitude of gratitude whenever we realize the Lord is right there during the difficult moments of our lives. Unfortunately, too many people forget to call out to Him, when they need Him most.

            The past 29 years of life with disability has allowed me opportunities to call out to the Lord, like Peter, “Lord, Save me!”   And, He is always present. Thus, with the Lord in your life you can accomplish incredible things.  Well, what about you?  When you recognize the stormy side of life, where do you put your focus? …On the Storm or On the Savior?

With a loving and grateful heart…

Msgr. Louis Marucci, V.F.