Get Out of the Boat
Today’s Gospel has a lot to say to us about fear and faith, and ultimately about trust, as Peter, in a boat with his fellow disciples on the Sea of Galilee in a storm on a dark night, dares to do the impossible – walk on water.
St Matthew tells us when Jesus said to Peter “Come”, Peter got out of the boat. What Jesus invited Peter to do was challenging – and there is a lesson in that for us. This last week has been our annual National Vocations Awareness week – an opportunity to reflect on our particular “vocations” – God’s call in our lives and to encourage young people to discern and pray about God’s personal call for their young lives.
Last Monday I attended a funeral in Toowoomba for one of our Diocesan Priests, Fr Brian Sparksman, who died, aged 87, having been bedridden for the last five years due to the sad and sudden onset of severe dementia. To my mind, Fr Brian had a “get out of your boat” type of call when he went to the Seminary at Banyo in 1964. Not only was he more than ten years older than us seminarians who went to the seminary straight from school, but because he had contracted Polio as a student at Downlands College in the early 1950’s, he walked with difficulty with callipers on his left leg. Ordained in Warwick in 1970 with four other young priests, Fr Brian with his many gifts and with his physical restrictions, found his niche in the life of the Diocese.
After studying Canon Law in Canada with the future Bishop, Brian Finnigan, he spent all his priestly life in Toowoomba in parish ministry, but mainly on the Matrimonial Tribunal and as Diocesan Chancellor. Walk and run he did also in promoting ecumenical and inter-faith relationships in the diocese.
Thank you, Fr Brian, for “getting out of the boat” all those years ago when you heard in your heart the Lord say to you “Come, walk as best as you can on the waters of life as a priest.” Maybe someone who reads this may just be encouraged to ask – is the Lord calling me to “Come, be a Priest or Religious”.
In the ups and downs and storms of modern day living, let us try and see the One who is always among us – even on the darkest of nights – the One who says “Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid” and try to discern whether he is saying to you or me “Come, get out of your boat” – I will support and hold you afloat – just trust me.
May your week ahead be blessed by God’s goodness and gifts.
Fr Brian Connolly