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Leaping off the boat

Young people make considerable sacrifices... but I have found that their fundamental difficulty is fear of making a final decision... It is very difficult, at least here in Europe, in our Western cultural context, for young people to make unreserved commitments or choices. So they won't take the final leap, they won't jump off the boat. The example of Peter, who jumps off the boat because he has seen the Lord, is one that I sometimes place before them. Sooner or later, we must leap off the boat. 

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini SJ, May 1997

When I read these words recently I was transported back to the day I learned to dive. I remembered in particular that moment when, standing on the edge of the pool, I hesitated just a second too long. In that instant the water, which I had been in just a few minutes earlier, which I knew to be warm and safe and just the right depth, loomed increasingly cold and deep. In those few seconds an irrational fear began to fill me, and I had to force myself to dive into this suddenly inhospitable-seeming water - and emerged, moments later, joyously safe and warm. That, I imagine, is what that leap of commitment must feel like to so many, despite all the assurances of joy and fulfillment and rightness from those already in the water.

In today's Gospel Peter doesn't hesitate, even for a nanosecond. He hears It is the Lord, and straightaway launches himself into the sea, so eager is he to be with Jesus. He is propelled by a love and a desire which are far greater than any fears he might have had about being reproached for his denials, or possible awkwardness in their meeting. He leaps off the boat because he has seen Jesus, and he swims towards the One who is Love and Mercy and Everything; the One whose encouraging Do not be afraid he can finally, truly believe; the One for whom he will gladly, wholeheartedly spend the rest of his life, because, really, he couldn't do anything less.

In a few hours' time I'll be travelling to Dublin, to a meeting about vocations ministry, which involves helping people make that final decision, that final leap of faith and desire. Maybe Peter - big-hearted, generous, unreserved in his commitment - will be our patron and inspiration, and add his prayer to ours, that many more young women will see the Lord and make that leap into the unknown... which is in reality a leap into his wide-open, ever-waiting Heart.



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