In this Sunday’s readings, both in the experience of Elijah and that of the disciples, we have a swing from triumph to distress. It’s true also for the boat of our life. What hope, then, does God’s word bring us?
Take my hand, O Lord, on my journey of life
Bible readings 1 Kings 19: 9, 11-13 Psalm 85: 9-14 Romans 9:1-5 Matthew 14:22-33
Swing of moments
Jesus has just multiplied bread and fed thousands of people. It’s a moment of amazement both for the crowds and for the disciples. Thereafter he sends his disciples to precede him to the other side of the lake while he remains to say bye to the crowds, and later, withdraws to the mountains to pray.
While the disciples are crossing the lake the storm rises with waves hitting hard the boat. In fact, for the Jews, the lake or the sea is an abode of evil spirits, hence a symbol of death. No wonder the disciples are terrified and fear for their lives. It’s during this moment when the disciples are in distress that Jesus comes. Seeing him walking on the water –they think it’s a ghost but he quickly he assures them: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid”.
In faith we dare
We are familiar with the abrupt character of Peter. The moment he realises it’s Jesus he doesn’t spare a minute before he makes a request: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” How dare! Probably, we would say it’s a crazy request. Yet, in faith we indeed dare a lot. A life of faith is an adventure undertaken, thanks to the trust we have in God. And thanks to the same trust Peter also walks on water like Jesus, but for how long?
As long as he keeps focussed on Jesus, Peter remains afloat but when he shifts his eyes to the swaying waves, doubt and fear take over –he begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” he cries. Jesus holds out his hand to him, and says: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Indeed, the boat of our life begins to sink when we allow fear and doubt to dominate our lives.
Mirror of our life
The fear, the anxiety and the cry that we find in the Gospel are indeed a mirror of our lives. Our whole life is a vocation; we are called and sent, like the disciples, to go the other side of the lake. Jesus sends us in the boat of marriage, religious life, priesthood or through any profession through which we witness our faith. At times our boat is hit hard by waves, especially those moments when the world seems to be dominated by powers of evil. We are overwhelmed by fear, doubt and anxiety. Is there anything we can hold onto?
Well, that’s a choice of life that belongs to any person. However, the word of God assures us that we are not left to ourselves. Even during those moments when God may seem to be distant or absent –he’s there. We can count on Jesus who holds out his hand to rescue us. We would only need perhaps an eye of faith in order to be aware of his presence.
Unfortunately, often we end up seeing only a ghost like the disciples, especially because we have fixed ideas on how God should appear to us. Be ready for a surprise, God manifests himself in our lives the way he chooses. It’s the case of Elijah in the First Reading.
Elijah’s boat rocks
Prophet Elijah has just triumphed over hundreds of the prophets of Baal –a pagan god. Not only has he proved to them that their religious practices are empty but he also eliminates them all. It’s a victory for him. But now, in the first reading, the boat is rocking for our triumphant prophet. In fact, he’s on the run, fleeing Jezebel who wants to have him killed. Elijah is at the end of his strength. It’s while he’s in such state of distress when Elijah is invited to prepare himself and wait for God who’s about to pass. But by which sign? For Elijah who knows his God as All Mighty it’s only normal that he expects some signs of grandeur. Yet, what a surprise! A rock-splitting wind blows, the earth trembles and the fire blazes but God is not in them. Finally, he passes only in a gentle breeze.
How often do we associate the presence of God with spectacular events! Elijah’s experience is an eye opener to us. We will do well to pay attention to the gentle breeze in our lives, that is, those moments when we think nothing eye-catching is happening; God may be passing. And it’s our role as Christians to signal to others such discrete, saving presence of God in the world.
SOS, our common cry
“Save me Lord” Peter cries. Probably, it’s our cry too. However, let’s not close upon ourselves to the point that our prayer just turns around our own needs. It’s an act of generosity to let resonate in our hearts also the cry of others. Not only do we relay it to God but also we allow it to inspire us into action of charity.
And whatever cry for help that inhabits our heart, Jesus assures us: “It’s I, take heart”. Thank you Jesus for the hand you hold out to me, and to others, when our boat rocks.
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