"I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites; theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; theirs the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen."
In today’s second reading, Paul expresses great sorrow that many of his beloved Jewish brothers and sisters have failed to recognize the coming of their long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. Paul, once a persecutor of the Christians himself, mourns for those who are still in the darkness of unbelief. He is even willing to suffer the loss of his own salvation for their sake.
Later in this letter, Paul also recognizes God’s mercy working through Israel’s unfaithfulness, which has opened the way for the Gentiles to be saved. Paul trusts that the time will come when the Jews, the chosen people, will be grafted back into the tree of life, becoming stronger than ever, if only they come to believe.
Most of us have loved ones who have left the faith for one reason or another, and we can relate to Paul’s heartfelt anguish. We pray for our loved ones, we hope for their return and suffer because of their absence. We would give anything to help them find their way back. While we await the return of our loved ones, we, like Paul, must patiently trust in God’s plan, placing our hope His merciful love.
Today’s Gospel story shows us that even the Apostles experienced the doubts and fears that caused their faith to falter. As their ship is tossed about in the storm, they don’t recognize Jesus when He approaches them, walking on water. Jesus reassures them, telling them not to fear. Only Peter steps out of the boat, but even he quickly loses faith and begins to sink. Jesus reaches out to save Peter and calm the storm. In doing so, He strengthens the faith of all the Apostles, who praise Him as the Son of God.
Our loved ones may be facing their own storms of unbelief, doubt, and fear. But trust in God to use even these trials to draw them, and many others with them, back to Him, strengthening their faith and finally grafting them back into the tree of life.