Monday, August 04, 2008

Monday in the 18th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. John Mary Vianney, Priest
Watch Where You Are Going

Readings: Jeremiah 28:1-17; Psalms 119:29, 43, 79, 80, 95, 102; Matthew 14:22-36
Picture: CC **spacemonkey**

Watch where you are going! That’s something that my late grandfather used to tell me when I was a boy. I had a bad habit then, something that I still find myself doing from time to time. While walking on the street, I would easily be distracted by the things around me. And I’d keep staring at them instead of watching where I was going. You can imagine the results. My grandfather’s sagely advice was either to stop walking and look at whatever thing was catching my interest, or simply to ignore it and to watch where I was going. As it turns out, if a recent news report is anything to go by, adults are as much in need of this advice as children. Several weeks ago, Barack Obama’s adviser fell off a Chicago curb and twisted her ankle while sending a text message on her Blackberry. Watch where you are going!

And, if our readings for today are anything to go by, we need to heed this same advice in the spiritual realm as well. Consider Peter’s experience in the gospel. Quite marvelously, he is walking to Jesus across the choppy surface of the lake. Peter is walking on water! And, for a while, he’s actually doing fine. As long as he keeps his eyes fixed on Jesus. As long as he continues to watch where he is going. But isn’t it true that this advice is often least easy to heed precisely when one needs it most? When the road gets rough, we tend to get more easily distracted. Which is what happens to Peter. The force of the wind distracts him. His attention is drawn away from Jesus. And he starts to sink. Thankfully, he has the presence of mind to call for help. And Jesus saves him.

The people in the first reading have a similar experience. But it is one that doesn’t end quite as well. They too are caught in the midst of choppy waters. The Babylonians have conquered their nation and many of them have been sent into exile. In such a situation, God’s wish, as expressed by Jeremiah, is for the people to continue patiently submitting to Babylonian rule, trusting that God will liberate them in time. But this is not an easy message to accept. Far more attractive is the false prophecy of Hananiah, who tells the people what they want to hear. And the people are distracted. They prefer to rely on what is false. They fail to watch where they are going, and things end badly not only for them, but also for the one who distracted them.

Contrast this with what we hear of Jesus in the gospel. The choppy waters he is facing are not just those on the lake. He has received news of the beheading of his cousin, John the Baptist. Along with coping with his grief, surely Jesus cannot but consider the implications of John’s death for his own ministry. The temptation must be great to allow himself to be distracted by these difficulties. In such a situation, we’re told that Jesus went up into the hills by himself to pray. He takes time to keep his focus on the One who sent him. He carefully watches where he is going. Such that his walking on the choppy waters of the lake are only a symbol of how he will walk the rough road to Jerusalem, to Calvary, and beyond.

How are we being invited to do the same?

How are we being invited to watch where we are going today?


  1. Your deliberations today are thought provoking. I can imagine that when we are focussed on one thing we are guilty of not being able to multi-task. My daughter often watches TV whilst texting using her Blackberry and have the CD player on and humming a tune.
    Gone are the simple life.
    But at one time or another, we need to practice centering. But it has to be focussed, devoid of distractions at a time and place suited to the purpose. The discipline to make time is paramount to energize our spiritual life.
    Indeed there is a time and place for everything, including walking on water, in faith, metaphorically speaking. In the name of Christ.

  2. I really need to watch where I'm going. One moment, I was perfectly calm and resolved to do good like a true child of God. The next moment, I simply flew off the handle and said some things that I shouldn't have said at all and in a manner that's very far from being calm.

    Please pray for me.