Facing Storms

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 13, 2023 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 14:22-23

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This Sunday we hear one of my favorite gospel narratives. It invites us to imagine what it might have been like that dark night when some of the disciples of Jesus decided to cross the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was not with them. Matthew mentions that he was busy praying.

Maybe they thought they might get in some fishin,’ which was their primary occupation before Jesus told them to leave their nets and follow him. Well away from shore, the wind suddenly howled, the waves rose and the boat rocked. Even being seasoned sailors, they suddenly became very afraid. I find it interesting that even today they say that the Sea of Galilee can at times become quite turbulent and dangerous.

As the disciples looked out over the waves, they suddenly saw Jesus walking toward them on the water! I wonder if this sight lessened their fear or increased it! Nevertheless, the always impetuous Peter, forgetting common sense, yelled out to Jesus that he would like to join him and do what Jesus was doing. Perhaps Jesus responded, “Why not?” And sure enough, Peter stepped over the side of the boat, stepped on the water and began walking. That is, until he suddenly doubted that he could really do this and then he began to sink – like a “rock” - something Jesus had named him earlier.

The narrative ends rather calmly. Jesus lifts Peter atop the water, the storm subsides, they all get into the boat and head for shore. No doubt, the disciples had questions but there is no record of their asking them. Especially Peter.

So, what might we take from this event? Here’s what I think. We will all face storms in our lives. We may even think that we will not survive their destructive power. But we will. God is there with a helping hand that is reliable and strong. We do well when we trust that God’s help will be ours. It may not end exactly as we might have hoped. After all, Peter wanted to walk of the water but in the end, he needed the hand of Jesus to reach safety.

This is a gospel about trust in God, a phrase that appears on our coinage. That does not imply we do nothing, although it does suggest that we do not face the difficulties in our lives along. Ignatian spirituality offers a principle that relates to this. It goes like this: Pray as if everything depends on God and act as if it all depends on us. Perhaps this saying may appear as a paradox, but isn’t much of life that way? God wants to help us, but God also wants our effort too.       

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