Sunday, August 9
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 14: 22-33
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”
ANOTHER STORM AT SEA. Today we are by the Sea of Galilee. The passage follows the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus sends the disciples off in his boat and instructs them to meet him on the other shore. Jesus remains alone. He needs time to pray. He would take the roadway later and meet them on the opposite shore. The trip by boat should have taken two hours. Soon we learn that a powerful storm has come up. In the other storm Jesus was in the boat, albeit asleep, with the disciples. They woke him up and he calmed the storm. Matthew gives no indication that the disciples were afraid. Most of the disciples were experienced fishermen, used to handling their boats in the midst of fierce storms. This storm seemed different somehow and they found themselves in the middle of the sea, making little headway in reaching the opposite shore. Matthew makes it a point to tell us that it is the 4th Watch (3AM-6AM). It is that time when the darkness of the night is very gradually surrendering to the first glimmers of light.
Jesus made it to the shore before them and looking out to the sea saw the boat being tossed and buffeted by the storm. He made no move to calm the storm. REALLY!!! HE MADE NO MOVE TO CALM THE STORM!! Instead he starts walking out on the water with an outstretched hand urging them to come to him. Each must take the risk and get out of that boat. Just as he directed them to use what they had to feed the vast hungry crowd; he now indicates that they must again use what they have and take that first leap of faith.
WHAT!??! GET OUT OF THE BOAT!!! “I don’t think so!!” Even though this boat was being tossed and buffeted by storms, these experienced fishermen knew what to do in the boat but were very reluctant to get out of it and throw themselves into a wild sea. Peter is the only one who dares to take the risk. It is the 4th Watch and the darkness of Peter’s faith surrenders to the first ray of God’s light. Faith always involves a call, fear, reassurance, a decision and a transformed life. It is a cyclical journey that is repeated over and over again in the life of a disciple.
As I prayed with this passage, I remembered the different storms I have encountered in my lifetime. The storms when I felt tossed and battered by life. At times I chose to stay in the storm rather than risking the danger that would follow if I “got out of the boat.” The active alcoholic or other addicts who live in the storm of their own addiction or those suffering from domestic abuse are often reluctant to risk giving up that “boat”. They prefer to stay in the danger of what they know rather than risking the danger of the unknown. The person who is grieving the death of someone they love, very much knows the storm of grief. No matter how much support and love others offer, the first step is getting out of that boat of grief and moving towards life is one they must make alone. Take time today to identify the storms you have had or maybe you are in the midst of right now. No matter who is stretching out a hand to offer help, there is a reluctance to let go of what you know and moving toward the outstretched hand. Yet, only you can take the first step. Recall the story of Jesus standing outside the tomb of Lazarus, urging him to come forth. That first step must be taken by you. It is that fearful moment when you realize you have left the boat. This is the moment, even in the midst of a raging storm, that the possibility for transformation begins.
Jesus is always stretching out his hand to us. He is always inviting us to walk toward him. He always desires for us to choose life. However, you have to get out of the boat. When we, like Peter, say “YES!” it will set off a power that is already within us and we, too, will be able to walk on water. I believe that God is always calling us to walk to and with him. When we say yes to his calling, it sets in motion a divine spirit far beyond mere human power. It will not be easy. You may have to face your deepest fears. You may have to risk leaving the false safety of the boat to move into the dangers of the sea. It will take an act of faith and a surrender to the power inside of you. In my life, and I imagine in yours also, I have known what seemed like impenetrable darkness. I have also known the 4th Watch. I have known those moments when the darkness of the night slowly (even reluctantly) surrendered to the first rays of light and I began moving to new life.
As a global community, we are in the midst of a great storm. The waves of many pandemics (COVID-19, racism, economic uncertainty and collapse, fear, unhealthy nationalism, myopic sense of personal rights and freedoms… name your own dangerous wave) are tossing and threatening our boat. Like the storm at sea, it is wildly sweeping across the world. We may feel that Jesus is off by himself praying and does not see what is happening. We may want to wake him up and insist that he calm this raging storm.
Jesus isn’t going to calm this storm. However, his hand is always outstretched, and he is always calling to us. Jesus insists that we use what we have, strengthened by deep faith and trust in God and faith and trust in each other, to reach the other side. Don’t let fears or doubts or unhealthy pride pull you and us down. Reach out to one another, let the deep and basic goodness God embed in our soul from all eternity rise to the surface. Use what you have to care for each other. Jesus is not going to calm this storm for us. He will reach out his hand and encourage us to use what we have (collectively) to do what needs to be done for the good of all.
I want the world to be in the 4th Watch but I don’t think it is there yet. The darkness of this time is very reluctant to surrender. Yet, that stubbornness will slowly surrender to the first rays of daylight and we will make it to the other shore. However, we will never make it to the other if we rely only on self (individual, city or country). Go back to the tomb of Lazarus, as soon as Lazarus took the first step and came out of the tomb, Jesus turned to the community and said, “Unbind him, let him go free.” It calls for an act of faith, it calls for a community working together. It calls for each of us taking the first step (wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands). It will take each of us and all of us responding as a community before we begin to navigate through this storm and move toward the breaking of the day. We are stronger when we work together for the good of all because God created us with original oneness. However, it takes getting out of the boat and walking on water.
-Sister Teresa Tuite, OP