Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, affectionately known as “Padre Pio”, was well-known all over Italy for his holiness and wisdom. People came from all over the world to confess to him and seek advice for growth in their spiritual lives. His words to them were always simple but full of wisdom, “Do not worry. Pray and hope.”
Do not worry. Pray and hope.
While this is simple advice, it is not easy to live out. We naturally fret over situations that threaten to harm us either physically, financially or emotionally. With sickness, family tensions, unemployment and social unrest all around us it is easy to be consumed by fear.
Padre Pio’s advice comes from his unshakeable faith in God and His love. The saintly friar knew that God was in control of all things. He was convinced that nothing could separate him from the love of God and that, no matter what may happen, our Heavenly Father would make all things work for good.
Therefore, saying “Do not worry. Pray and hope,” came as naturally to Saint Pio as worry and fear come to us who have lesser faith.
In today’s gospel, we see the apostles in a state of panic. Their small fishing boat is being tossed about like a cork on the Sea of Galilee. Frantically, they are fighting to keep the waves from swallowing them up. It looks as though all may be lost.
Then they see Jesus walking on the water toward them. At first they think they are seeing things. It has to be a ghost. But they recognize Him as their Lord. Unlike them, He is not filled with fear. He does not panic. Rather, He shows Himself to be Master over the stormy sea. He has control over nature in all its wrath and fury. In fact, not only does He walk on the water but, as soon as He gets in the boat, He calms the winds.
Doing so, Jesus shows Himself to be God. Just as God parted the Red Sea before the Israelites to save them from Pharaoh's army, so Jesus calms the Sea of Galilee to save His disciples from the storm. Just as God parted the Jordan River so that the Israelites could enter the Promised Land, so Jesus walks on the water to save the ones He had chosen. As God, Jesus has power over the elements and uses that power to save His people.
In just the same way, Jesus has power over the problems that threaten to crush us. He has power over the debt that threatens to swallow us up. He has control over the relationships which drain our energy and leave us exhausted. He has power over those forces in government that want to deprive us of our religious freedom and other rights. As Creator of the Universe, there is nothing which lies beyond His authority.
For us, it is a simple matter of faith. In the face of everything which is beyond our control, we can place it in the hands of this Almighty God knowing that He will handle it. Whatever it may be, only He can bring about certain justice, lasting peace and a clear resolution. It might not be in the way we expect or in the manner we prefer, but it will be effective. In the midst of the storms that rage around us, we can be confident that He will save us. It is simply a matter of praying and hoping.
Now, placing all things in God’s hands is not a way for us to deny the problems that face us. It is not a way of absolving ourselves of responsibility for our lives. Rather it is a way for us to act in a clear and confident manner.
Fear paralyzes us. It makes us want to run away and hide. However, when we acknowledge that God is in control, we regain our confidence. We realize that no matter what may happen, God will save us. We can confront the circumstances that threaten us knowing that our Heavenly Father is greater than any earthly power. Like Peter, we find the courage to get out of the boat, to confront the storm and discover that we have abilities beyond what we ever could imagine. Sometimes that is all it takes for the bullies in our lives to drop their weapons and run away.
Each of us here today is facing some difficulty that seems overwhelming, some problem that seems unsolvable, some pain that seems beyond anyone’s power to relieve. God knows what we are facing. If we allow Him to join us in the boat, if we allow Him to be with us in the storm, He will see us safely to port. It may not happen immediately. God may allow the storm to rage around us for a while so that we can learn to trust Him more deeply or maybe so that we can discover that we have more strength, courage and resiliency than we thought.
Either way, He is in control and will not allow us to go under. Saint Pio’s simple advice should guide us always. “Don’t worry. Pray and hope.”