January 11, 2013

2013 Religious Vocations Supplement

‘Lord, if it is you…’—trusting in Christ’s call

By Fr. Eric Johnson

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Mt 14:28).

These words of St. Peter are spoken to Jesus in the midst of a storm-tossed sea. The disciples had earlier been dismissed by Jesus while he went off to a deserted place to pray.

Now, they have caught sight of him coming to them across the water. We read initially that the disciples were terrified. Jesus, however, reassures them and tells them to not be afraid. Then Peter responds with his request: “Lord, if it is you …” (Mt 14:28).

What strikes me about Peter’s statement is that it reveals a real desire for faith, a desire to be with Jesus, a desire to trust in his presence. To be sure, there is a note of uncertainty in his request. He is still aware of the storm and still has doubt, but he wants to trust in that relationship.

Jesus’ response to Peter’s request is simply to say “Come” (Mt 14:29). Peter, in the face of his doubts and fears, chooses to trust in the person of Jesus and steps out onto the water. For a moment, he walks across the waves, moving towards the One who invited him.

As long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus, Peter weathers the storm that is around him. It is only when he loses sight of Jesus, fixing his eyes on the water beneath his feet, his distance from the safety of the boat and the roaring of the waves, that Peter sinks back into his fears and down into the water.

Like Peter, I think most all of us desire faith. We want to be close to Jesus and to trust in his care for us. We want Jesus to be there and, like St. Paul, we want to walk by faith and not by sight. We want to be able to say with Peter, “Lord, if it is you …”

Our lives, however, are full. There are so many obligations, demands and things that bring us anxiety. Between work, home and the many other commitments that tug at us, it is easy for us to simply focus on what is immediately in front of us and lose sight of Christ who calls us.

We can also come to see Christ’s invitation to come as just one of a number of voices that compete for our attention. Our world can be filled with noise, with the voices of doubt, fear, expectations and worry. All of this can lead us to take our eyes off of Christ. We let go of silence, prayer and nurturing our relationship with the person that invites us and saves us.

Priests, deacons and those in consecrated life offer us their simple witness to faith. In the face of their own doubts, questions and fears, they have chosen in faith to trust the invitation of Jesus. They have stepped out to teach us, console us, walk with us, lead us and to embrace a life of service to the Church. Behind their ministry is a striving to live out their faith in Jesus and to share that relationship with others.

This perhaps is one of their greatest gifts to us. In their life and ministry, priests, consecrated men and women and permanent deacons remind us that there is something more than what is immediately in front of us, more than simply what this world has to offer. They stand as a sign—a reminder—of Christ’s invitation to us to trust, to follow, to step out.

This annual Religious Vocations Supplement contains some of their stories. Each is unique, representing a wide range of responses and ministries. They are stories of vocation, generosity, compassion and joy. They are stories of faith.

May we find in them a witness that leads us deeper into the mystery of Christ’s call to each one of us. May they inspire us to a greater courage in keeping our hearts fixed on the person of Christ.

(Father Eric Johnson is the outgoing archdiocesan vocations director. Later this month, Father Eric Augenstein will succeed him in this ministry.)

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