Ronald Rolheiser, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, is president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.
He is a community-builder, lecturer and writer. His books are popular throughout the English-speaking world and his weekly column is carried by more than seventy newspapers worldwide.
WALKING ON WATER AND SINKING LIKE A STONE
Faith has its ups and downs: We see this, almost pictorially illustrated, in the incident of Peter walking on the water. Initially his faith feels strong and he confidently steps onto the sea and begins to walk. But, almost immediately upon realizing what he was doing, he starts to sink. Our own faith works exactly like that, at times it lets us walk on water and at other times we sink like a stone. The gospel image of Peter walking on the sea speaks for itself.
Faith also works best when we don't confuse it with our own efforts. Donald Nichol, in his book, Holiness, shares a story of a British missionary working in Africa. At one point, early on in his stay there, the missionary was called upon to mediate a dispute between two tribes. He had no preparation for this, was naive, and totally out of his depth. But he gave himself over to the task in faith and, surprisingly, reconciled the two tribes. Afterwards, buoyed by this success, he began to fancy himself as mediator and began to present himself as an arbiter of disputes. But now, however, his efforts were invariably unhelpful. Here's the irony: when he didn't know what he was doing, but trusted solely in God, he was able to walk on water; as soon as he began to wrap himself in the process, he sank like a stone. Faith works like that: We can walk on water only if we don't think that we are doing it with our own strength.
The Sufi mystic, Rumi, once wrote that we live with a deep secret that sometimes we know, and then not, and then we know it again.
Faith works like that, some days we walk on water, other days we sink like a stone, and then later we walk on water again.