Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gospel Text for Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."

Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."


  1. It seems that in this story the attention usually goes to Peter. My reflection this time keeps me with Jesus and the rest of the disciples. What a discussion it must have been on the beach: Jesus telling the disciples to leave him alone with a crowd of over 5000 and dispatching them without him. How they must have protested, fearful, I believe, as much for their own security as for his. They had come to this place because Jesus needed desperately to be alone after hearing of the death of his cousin John the Baptist. His search for solitude had been interrupted by the crowd, so now he claimed it again. But seeing his inner security did not leave them trusting their own. So, when they get into trouble they become afraid, and when Jesus shows up in an unfamiliar form their fear only increases. Jesus affirms his presence and their safety with the words, “Take heart' it is I; do not be afraid.”

    I know what it is to experience a wonderful event with Jesus then to feel sent off without him into perilous territory. In fact, this seems to happen regularly, though the wonderful experiences may not always be dramatic nor the way ahead so perilous. Yet, I get into a new circumstance and feel discomfort or insecure. I wish for Jesus' presence and do not feel it. Then, in an unfamiliar form comes the voice, “Take heart, it is I.” I must look through the storm of my own turbulent soul to see and be sure that I am hearing the trusted voice. I must risk believing against the threat my mind argues may be in the unfamiliar form Jesus takes. When I do I come to peace, and as I turn back to face the storm I feared, I find it has dissipated.

  2. Sometimes I feel like I am banging my head against the wall. I have been working really hard, doing my job, taking care of the people in my life and I just needed some space– even from your best friends?
    That’s what I imagine was happening for Jesus when he “made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, dismissed the crowds and went by himself up into the hills to pray.” After all, no sooner had Jesus received the heart breaking news that his cousin John the Baptist was killed than he found himself in the midst of 5000 starving people to whom he ministered – feeding every single one of them. If you have ever hosted a dinner party or even a big picnic you know, that was no small task. No wonder Jesus was heading for the hills – trying to get a little space to ponder, to pray – to cry for the loss of his cousin - to pray for the strength to carry on. To pray to understand the cruelty and suffering he witnessed at every turn. Maybe even to take a much needed nap.

    So when I ask the obvious question – why did Jesus wait until the 4th watch (about 3 o’clock in the morning) to go to the disciples?... Why did he let the disciples be beaten by the waves and the wind in their little boat all night long before he went to their aid? Why did he let them suffer?...I’m not sure.

    Maybe Jesus was deep in prayer with his Father. Or maybe Jesus fell asleep. Or maybe Jesus decided to let the disciples experience what it was like to be on their own, to rely on their own wit and wile to deal with the wind and the waves. Maybe he wanted them to realize that they could not get to the other side relying on themselves. They could not get through the storms of nature and life unless he was in the boat with them.

    I don’t know. I wasn’t there and I surely don’t know the mind of Jesus – but maybe – just maybe – wallowing in the storms of life, enduring the battering winds and the unpredictable waves, staying afloat in uncertain physical, social, economic and political times, just barely hanging on through a seemingly endless dark night is what it takes for us to recognize that God is God and we are not, and we cannot navigate the storms of life on our own.

    It is not by our wit and our wile that we get through the dark night. It is not by our strength or our strategies that we set chaos to calm. It is by wading through life’s winds and waves and hanging on to the last shred of hope until with nothing left to have or to hold we (like Peter) cry out, “Lord save me.”
    And the new light of dawn arises. We recognize Jesus is in our boat and immediately we fall to our knees and worship him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God. “