(1Kgs.19:9a,11-13a; Rom.9:1-5; Mt.14:22-33)
Have you heard the story of the photographer who took no photos?
That photographer was Jeff Cavins. He used to dream of capturing images of beauty and truth in a way that reflected his faith, so he decided to become a photographer.
He bought dozens of photography magazines and began learning all he could about cameras, camera techniques, the history of photography and the lives of great photographers. He also joined a photography club and mingled with professional photographers, sharing all he had learned.
After five months, his wife asked him, ‘Why don’t you buy a camera?’
‘Yes!’ he thought, but first he had to choose a good one. So, he bought more magazines, read the reviews and finally bought a camera and other gear. After setting it all up at home, his wife asked him, ‘Why don’t you take a picture?’
He’d been a photographer for a year now, but still hadn’t taken a picture. Then the photography club asked him to give a speech and to judge their best images. And someone else asked him to photograph their daughter’s wedding.
Suddenly, Cavins realised that he didn’t know the first thing about photography. He had been a fan, but not a true follower.
He writes about this in his book, The Activated Disciple, and says that it’s just the same with the Christian faith. Many people call themselves Christian, and might be fans of Jesus, but they’re not followers because they don’t actually practise their faith.
There’s a big difference between a fan and a follower, he says. You might be a fan of the Faith, watching and listening to Catholic radio and TV and even having Catholic bumper stickers. But it’s not the same as living the faith, for as St James tells us, ‘Faith without works is dead’ (Jas.2:17).
Cavins says that knowing all about theology, doctrine and Church history is not the point of Christian life. Such knowledge is good, but if we don’t actually use it, we will never really understand it.
So, what is the goal of the Christian faith? It’s to develop a close, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s walking with Jesus, becoming like him and joining him in his mission in our modern world. [i]
That is the essence of the Christian life.
But if we don’t have such a relationship with Jesus, how might we start? One good place to start is in today’s readings.
In our first reading, the prophet Elijah is hiding in a cave on Mt Horeb. He’s scared because Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab, wants to kill him. He asks God what he should do, and waits for an answer. Then some strange things happen: there’s a mighty windstorm, an earthquake, and a fire. But God isn’t in any of these things.
Then in the silence Elijah hears a gentle whisper; he realises that it’s God telling him to go to Syria. From this, Elijah learns that the true God is not the God of mayhem or destruction, but the God of love, because love speaks in whispers.
For us today, this means that if you want to talk with Jesus, then make space for silence in your life. (And note that the words ‘silent’ and ‘listen’ share the same letters.)
In our second reading, St Paul says that to inherit eternal life, your faith must be genuine. You must love Jesus and believe in him, and this must be reflected in all your words and actions.
And in our Gospel, Peter starts walking on water towards Jesus, but then he starts to sink. ‘Man of little faith!’ Jesus says, ‘Why did you doubt?’ Peter learns that to keep going, he must keep his eyes fixed firmly on Jesus.
It’s the same with us: we all have to deal with nasty storms, tough decisions, great temptations and sad times. To walk through these things safely, we must keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.
So, try to picture these special moments: Elijah in his cave, listening carefully for God’s quiet voice. Paul telling the Romans that all their words and actions must reflect their faith and love for Jesus. And, Peter walking through storms with his eyes fixed firmly on the Son of God.
These are all good ways to start developing our personal relationship with Jesus.
You don’t need a camera to be a good Christian.
But you do need to become an image of Jesus, reflecting him in all you do.
[i] Jeff Cavins, The Activated Disciple. Ascension, West Chester, PA. Ch.1.