1 Kg 19:9, 11-13, Rm 9:1-5, Mt 14:22-33
Prepred by David Hennen
When Sheila was dating Tom, she believed that the times that he hit her only happened because of who she was and was because of something she had done. For the next 26 years, she embraced this philosophy. Sheila thought it was always her fault and if she could change, all the emotional and physical abuse would end. Of course, it did not.
During this time, Sheila became increasingly fearful, anxious and depressed. She became an expert at lying about why she couldn't come to work or attend social engagements. She became an excellent make up artist in order to cover the bruises. After one particular beating where she thought she had a broken rib, Tom said, "You know where the hospital is, go there."
On the day their youngest son went away to school, there was a fight and Tom and their son pulled out of the driveway, while she lay unconscious on the garage floor. When she regained consciousness, her glasses were broken, she had two black eyes, a chipped tooth, and a split lip. That night, Sheila left.
This is a true story. I did not know this couple personally but this is just one of the many stories of domestic violence that happens in our world. It is a problem that is often not on our radar screen. It is a problem that is often hidden due to the shame and embarrassment.
When we talk about domestic violence, it is not just the few extreme cases we see on the nightly news. Domestc violence involves any type of behavior where one person in a relationship is controlling another. This behavior can include name calling or putdowns, physical harm, sexual assault, intimidation, not allowing someone to contact their family or friends, and withholding money. As you can see, this behavior can take many forms and can happen continuously or just every once in a while. No one is immune from being a victim. The victim can be of any age, sex, race, culture, religion, education, employment or marital status.
For those of you who are victims of domestic violence, you should remember these three things. First, you are not alone. Second, it is not your fault. Third, help is available.
Of these three things, I believe the most important to remember is that it is not your fault. It is not your fault. There is nothing that you could do or say that deserves this type of behavior. When you were created by God, it was not part of God's plan that you undergo this abuse. God created you out of love. So what went wrong? You may be wondering where was God during all of this? Why weren't your pleas of rescue from this situation answered? I won't pretend that I have the answers. I am only here to tell you that there is another way. There is no intimidation in a relationship. Nor is there any abuse – physical, emotional or sexual. A relationship based on love and respect brings you joy, peace and freedom.
If we look at today's Gospel, those of you who have been abused can probably relate to the story. Does your life feel like you are in a boat being tossed about by the waves? Today, Jesus calls Peter to come out of the boat and to walk towards him on the water. It is only when Peter became frightened that he began to sink.
How many times have you wanted to take that same step like Peter but you too were worried that everything would collapse underneath you if you sought help? hat's going to happen to my relationship? What about the children? How will I make a living?
These are all valid questions but none of these can be answered until you take that first step of seeking help. There are risks in seeking help but I believe the possibilities of healing in your life far outweigh the risks.
For those of you who are perpetrators of this type of abuse, there is no legitimate reason for your behavior. Yet, we know that you probably have little control over your behavior. Deep down, you know that this abusive behavior is not right but you lack the strength and the courage to seek help. How many times after have you committed some act of abuse that you have asked for forgiveness and said that you will never do it again but only find yourself repeating this pattern?
God's plan for you did not include the abusive behavior that you have done. How many times have you wanted to take that step like Peter did but you were too afraid that your world would collapse if you did? Will I lose my family? Will I lose my job? In a certain sense, you may feel that the only control you have in your life is the control you exercise over the person you abuse. But if you are honest with yourself, you would admit that you have really lost control of your life and are no longer free. It is time to seek help.
For those of us in the community here, we need to be the hand of Jesus as seen in the Gospel today. We need to be able to help those trapped in the problem of domestic violence. We cannot turn our heads the other way and say it's not my problem. When a member of the body of Christ is hurting, all of us who are members of the body of Christ should hurt. When someone wants to take that step out of the boat like Peter did, we need to be there to extend the hand of Christ.
Together, all of us must confront the issue of domestic violence. For those of you involved in an abusive relationship, I ask that you seek help. God has another plan for both of you. God wants to bring healing to your life. Bring your fear and worries to God in prayer so that he may help you overcome them. The first step is always the hardest. In today's church bulletin, you will find a list of phone numbers for you to call. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator, there is help for you. If you are afraid to take that first step, please call me or someone on staff here at the parish for help or seek out a friend that you trust.
Even though many of us are not in an abusive relationship and may not know of anyone who is, we can't be complacent. We must be conscious of our own behavior in relationships. We must teach the children that domestic violence is wrong. It's hard to fathom that Sheila had to endure 26 years of abuse before she was able to seek help. Are we willing to let this continue?