Message: The enemy's strategy is false self-reliance that leads to disunity and impotence. God's strategy is reliance on Jesus that brings unity and power.
After the Communion Prayer we will have blessing of those with anniversaries of matrimony during August. This fits with our summer theme: strengthening marriages and families for spiritual combat. As we saw last week: even though its seems we are being overwhelmed, still we have a Father who keeps his promises. We can trust in the final outcome.
We saw that spiritual warfare does not involve constant conflict. There's a time to relax and regroup. Summer's a good time to think about strategy.
God has a strategy and so does the enemy. We can see God's strategy in today's Gospel. He does allows storms, but he comes to us in the midst of them. Like Peter walking on the water, God sometimes enables us to do amazing things. However, when we start thinking, "Hey, look at me," God lets us sink.
For sure he wants you always to do great things - even move mountains - but it requires faith, trust in Jesus. God may allow a person to sink. Why? so he will recognize the source of power. That's God's strategy.
The enemy has an opposite strategy. He gives the illusion of power, but ultimately he renders a person impotent. He does it by getting us to think we can do it on our own.
Have you noticed that about sin? It can lead a person to say, look how great I am! So a guy takes advantage of others. That's bad enough but the enemy wants him to think how clever he is. Or even to think: I'm a real Don Juan!
You've probably heard that if a guy goes bald in the front, he's a great thinker. If he goes bald in the back, he's a great lover. If he goes bald front and back, he thinks he is a great lover!
That's the devil's strategy - to get a person to exalt himself. For example, a guy stops going to Mass. The enemy tries to get him to think he is making a bold, courageous choice. "At least I'm not like those hypocrites." Or even better, "I believe in science, not like those simpletons who believe in God."
When you think about it, it doesn't make much sense. It's like saying: I don't believe in God, I believe in quantum mechanics! Or: I don't believe in God, I believe salt is sodium chloride!
Einstein never said, "I believe in science." Nor did Isaac Newton. He practiced science and believed in God. So did the majority of modern scientists. It surprises people to learn some priests made great scientific achievements. Try googling priest scientists. You'll find a long list. I'll never be on it, but the list includes spiritual fathers who are also known as "fathers" of geology (Bishop Nicholas Stenno), genetics (the monk Gregor Mendel) and the Big Bang theory (Jesuit Fr. Georges LeMaitre).
The enemy wants us to imagine a contradiction between practicing science and believing in God. It's not that the enemy loves science. He will use it for his own ends if we let him. His strategy is not to exalt science. No he wants you and me to exalt ourselves. To think I'm better than the other guy. Thus he creates a false self-reliance: I don't need other people and I don't need God.
When I was in high school, a guy a few years older said that in the morning he looks in the mirror and says, "Every day, in every way I keep getting better and better." He amused us, but it had a poignant outcome. A serious disease hit him and led to an early death. I don't know if he turned to God. I pray he did.
In the Gospel Peter cries out, "Lord, save me." Jesus lifts him up but also rebukes him for his lack of faith. Not that Jesus want to humiliate us; he wants us to do great things by faith in him.
We have a nice opportunity next Sunday. We will have an outdoor bilingual Mass followed by our annual picnic. Why not invite someone in your family or a friend who has been away? Or someone curious about our faith? It will be a celebration of unity in our parish and in our valley.
Remember, the enemy's strategy is false self-reliance that leads to disunity and impotence. God's strategy is reliance on Jesus that brings unity and power. As Jesus says to his disciples, "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid." Amen.