Jesus walks on water. The disciples are in the boat crossing the Sea of Galilee overnight and Jesus, who chose to stay behind to pray, walks past them on the water, heading to the shore.
This is a most significant moment of revelation by Jesus to the disciples. Many images from the Old Testament, beginning with the creation of the world in Genesis 1, come to mind. This moment should be both startling and awe-inspiring for the disciples.
Peter again seems to act rashly in this moment: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Peter knows and doubts. This sense of knowing and doubting is repeated in Matthew’s Gospel, and most significantly at the very end when, as Jesus is about to ascend, Matthew comments: “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted (28:17).”
Instilling doubt into faith seems to be counter-intuitive to us, but it seems to be a necessary reflection for the disciple of Jesus. All of us, whether at times of suffering and confusion, or just the reflection on what appears to be the rational world, have those periods of doubt. Doubt can cause us to do one of three things. We can brush it aside and pay no attention; we can wallow in the doubt and stoke its flames allowing it to grow, or we can take it on and resolve it with prayer, reading and further reflection.
Let’s consider what Peter does in response to his doubt. He wants Jesus to resolve the doubt for him by asking of Jesus what should be impossible: “command me to come to you on the water.” Clearly Peter is demonstrating a depth and power of faith in Jesus that goes beyond the others. We might expect that the disciples thought Peter had lost his mind to even think of getting out of the boat and onto the water. Boldly and courageously Peter steps out of that boat and begins to walk.
But then, there he is, reality (or what should seem to be real) hits him – “I am actually walking on water!” – and then the doubt overwhelms him again, and he sinks.
Peter then does what could only be done, he cries out to Jesus: "Lord, save me!"
He cannot walk on the water on his own. Peter needed Jesus to save him.
That is then the meaning of faith. There is much that we cannot do on our own. Certainly we are incapable of saving ourselves. We rely solely on the Lord for our salvation.
Peter’s experience of trying to walk on water gives us an insight into the journey of faith. We first ask Jesus to get us out of the boat. It takes the desire for faith – even the slightest desire – to begin the process of the journey in faith. Even with our doubts, we must be willing to step forward. From there, it is either sink or swim.
Like Peter we need the courage – the bold courage to get out of the boat and, when we sink – as we inevitably will – to call upon the Lord who will lift us up out of the abyss, placing us on the dry land of his eternal kingdom.
Aug. 20 – A Canaanite woman interrupts Jesus’ vacation
Many of us are staring at the last weeks of summer vacation. We all need to take a break from the familiar and routine in our lives. While we know that Jesus often went to the mountains to pray we never quite think of him and the disciples relaxing. Did Jesus ever take a vacation?
This week’s Gospel seems to give us one suggestion that he did. Jesus and the disciples are in the district of Tyre and Sidon in modern day Lebanon. He has left the Jewish territory and is in this ancient port region along the Mediterranean Sea. This is the only time in the Gospels when we hear of Jesus being along the waters of the Mediterranean. As he is at dinner with his disciples and, presumably a host and other invitees, we can picture Jesus on a short holiday.
Wouldn’t you know it – as luck would have it – a local woman hears that Jesus is in town and interrupts the meal and pleads with Jesus to heal her afflicted daughter? The peace and calm of the moment is ruined by this woman.
Jesus, rather uncharacteristically, dismisses her. He doesn’t seem to want to be bothered with her, but he is willing to engage her. Typically (especially in Matthew’s Gospel) Jesus did not leave the confines of ancient Israel nor did he often interact with gentiles.
We must give this woman much credit. She not only recognized Jesus for who he was, but was also very persistent in her conversation with him. To some extent this is extremely bold and must have been shocking to his disciples and his host. Not only did she barge in on them, she seems disrespectful.
After listening to her plea Jesus sends her ways with the assurance that her daughter has been healed.
We must all often find ourselves in this kind of situation. We are relaxing, perhaps away from home on vacation, and the duties or obligations of faith interrupt us.
Do you find it difficult to go to Mass when on vacation when either your hosts or traveling companions choose not to? Do you find it difficult to engage in conversation on difficult social and political issues because it might highlight the conflict between the teaching of the Church and the conventional wisdom of the world? Do you ever feel that the life of faith just seems to intrude on your real life?
As a college seminarian the dean used to remind us before vacation times that: “there is no vacation from your vocation.” This pithy remark is true for each of us. We might take a break from our “real life” and get out of town for a well-deserved break, but there is no break from discipleship. We carry our experience with us always, even when, and especially when, it makes us uncomfortable because we are outside of our usual element or circumstances of life.
Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.[[In-content Ad]]