Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Faith is about the Lord’s presence

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Last weekend I returned to my home parish in South Omaha, Sts. Peter and Paul, to gather with family and friends to mark the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth, Aug. 12, 1923. He was born on a Sunday and three weeks later, on Sept. 2, 1923, was baptized in the font that still stands in the church, the font in which my mother, my siblings and I were baptized.

The parish was established by Croatian immigrants, among whom were my grandparents. My grandfathers, like many immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe in the early part of the 20th century, came to South Omaha for the job opportunities for unskilled labor in the meatpacking plants there.

The ethnic nature of the parish provided a rich opportunity to experience the blending of faith and culture. It was in that setting that I learned that faith is not only a matter of holding certain beliefs, but like culture, faith is something that holds us, that sustains us in a way that gives meaning and purpose to our life, and that binds us together as a people.

The Gospel text on Sunday helped me to recall this truth. It was the scene of Jesus walking across the water to be with the disciples.

They were being tossed about in a boat due to a sudden storm. In this story, Jesus reveals not so much his power but his desire to be with us in the storms of life.

Jesus’ extraordinary walk on the water was not a show of his power, but it revealed his desire to be present to us, even if it meant doing the extraordinary like walking on water. He came to them not to rescue them from the danger. Notice that the storm still raged for most of the scene. Rather, he walked across the surface of the water just to be present to them, to sustain them and give their present moment of suffering meaning.

Perhaps we have experienced that kind of consoling and encouraging presence from others in a moment of great challenge and loss. They tell the story of a 5-year-old boy who befriended an elderly couple who lived across the street. One day the wife died and few days later, as the lad saw the new widower sitting on his porch, crying in sorrow, he went up to him and sat on his lap for about an hour. When he returned home his mother asked him what he had said to the man. The boy responded, “Nothing. I just cried with him.” 

Having faith in the Lord does not mean that everything in life will be easy and peaceful, as if faith provides us an escape route from the storms of life. Rather the faith Jesus calls us to have is the assurance of his presence as the storm is raging.

Jesus chides Peter for having “little faith” because he took his eyes off the one who had walked across the water just to be present to him as the storm continued to rage. This is the faith Jesus calls us to have, the assurance that he will grab hold of us, not to dispel the storm, but to help us face it even as it rages.

That is the kind of faith I was baptized and raised in at Sts. Peter and Paul, and why it was important for me to celebrate my dad’s 100th birthday with a community where I met the one who is willing to walk on water to be with me in the storms of life.