DAILY CATHOLIC -    Tuesday, December 9, 1997   volume 8, no. 48



by Father John Hampsch, C.M.F.

Faith: Key to the Heart of God

Sixteenth installment: The Growth of Faith

     On one of our tours to the Holy Land, while crossing the Sea of Galilee, a number of stories were shared by the group, about the place where Peter and Jesus walked upon the water.

&nbps;    One of the stories concerned the Scotsman who came to the Holy Land and wanted to go across the Sea of Galilee to Tiberius. He asked the boatman how much it would cost to go across. The boatmaster replied that it would cost him $100. The Scotsman complained that that seemed an exorbitant price to pay simply to cross the lake by boat. "How come it costs so much?" he asked. The boatmaster replied, "This is a very special lake. This is where Jesus walked on water." And the Scotsman quipped, "At that price, no wonder He walked!"

     It was at that special place where Jesus walked upon the water that Peter questioned His appearance: "Lord, if that's really You and not a ghost walking there on the water, bid me to come to you" (Matthew 14: 28). So Jesus invited him to come. Peter stepped out of the boat (from which we get the term "to step out in faith") and began to walk on the water himself (this perhaps being the same occasion of Jesus' water-walking referred to in John 6: 18 and 19).

      Now try to imagine Peter putting his foot down on the water and testing its astonishing firmness, amazed that it's holding him up. He's walking along and doing fine and starting to feel very confident in his own faith. He's looking at Jesus waiting with outstretched arms. No problems so far. But then he turns and looks at the heaving waves (which often kick up on the Sea of Galilee when the wind comes channeling down through the valley from the north.) He becomes frightened and is sure he's going to be swamped. The moment he looks at the waves and the turbulence around him and takes his eyes off Jesus, he begins to sink. So he cries out, "Lord, save me, I am going to perish!" Jesus reaches down, grasps him by the hand and pulls him up, and then chides him, "Why were you fearful, you man of little faith?"

      Little faith? He was walking on water! I've never walked on water, so I'm sure Peter had a lot more faith than I have, yet that was little faith, Jesus said. He didn't say Peter had no faith; He said he had little faith. It's the same thing He said to the apostles on another occasion (Matthew 8: 26) when they woke Him from His sleep in a storm-tossed boat. They had enough faith to believe that He could do something about the storm; that's why they woke Him up. After Jesus calmed the storm, He chided them: "Why were you fearful, you men of little faith?" Again, not no faith, just little faith. Yet, the very working of that dramatic miracle by Jesus increased their faith, as verse 27 indicates: "Who is this that the wind and sea obey Him?"

     Why did Jesus in both of these cases talk about little faith? He was saying in effect that eaven if our faith in Him is strong enough to enable us to walk on water and strong enough for us to believe that He could stop a storm instantly, it still is not enough. As long as there is an element of fear, anxiety and uncertainty, we have not reached that level of total trust that Jesus wants. With faith, as with the other virtues, we're all in that biggest room in the world, called the room for improvement. The Thessalonian Christians had remarkable faith (I Thessalonians 1: 8), yet it continued to grow even more (II Thessalonians 1: 3), sustaining them through crushing hardships.

Next Week: "Horizontal Growth: The "Contagion" of Faith - part one

December 9, 1997 volume 8, no. 48         DAILY CATHOLIC - COLUMNS