Father Koch: Jesus prepares the 12 Apostles for their ministry

August 11, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.
Jesus reveals himself to his apostles through his miracles such as the walking on the water which is proclaimed in the Gospel for Aug. 13. Photo from Shutterstock.com
Jesus reveals himself to his apostles through his miracles such as the walking on the water which is proclaimed in the Gospel for Aug. 13. Photo from Shutterstock.com (Shutterstock/Trenton Monitor)


Gospel reflection for Aug. 13, 2023, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is an unfortunate quirk in the liturgical cycle that the timing of the Gospel Reading on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was preempted last week and, instead, the Gospel proclaimed was for the Solemnity of the Transfiguration.

But what we do encounter this weekend is the aftermath of this seminal event in the ministry of Jesus.

There is no doubt that the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus, as it is tied to the further revelation of who he is and prefigures the Eucharistic meal. Jesus knows that this miracle will change lives, cause others to see him differently, and likely expedite the plots against him.

Jesus needs to go off by himself to pray. Unlike some of the other moments when he does go with the disciples in tow, this time he sends them away, across the Sea of Galilee, so that he can be completely alone, absent of any distractions. It is likely during this time of prayer that Jesus further discerns that he needs to help the disciples to understand more fully who he is and what is about to unfold in his and their lives. The miracle of the food was an incredible event, wrapped with significant meaning and symbolism from within the Jewish tradition. Yet it needed to be explained even more. This is more than just a miracle; it is parabolic action, a moment of divine revelation. Coming to understand the miracle is confounded by the many layers on which it happens. This miracle is so significant that it is the one most recorded in the Gospels with six occurrences in the four Gospels.

The event that follows -- the walking on the water -- which we hear this weekend, is a further explanation and insight into the meaning of the multiplication, and a deeper revelation of Jesus to his disciples.

The disciples are being tossed about on the sea in the predawn when what at first appears to be a ghostly figure comes walking near them on the water. Of course they are afraid. Jesus, seeing their fear, speaks to them the word of consolation: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

The Lord moves immediately to strengthen their faith. He not only identifies himself here as their rabbi and companion, but also uses the name of God: “It is I.”

By some accounts the expression, “be not afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible, and one of the places where we see that is here in this dialogue with the disciples. This proves to be a significant turning point in the ministry of Jesus, as he is now most clearly shifting the focus of his ministry among the 12 as one of self-revelation -- Jesus showing himself as Messiah and Lord -- which prepares them for their own ministry after the Resurrection of Jesus.

It is Peter who, as we see in other moments of encounter with Jesus, expresses both certainty and doubt at the same time. Here he is willing to jump into the water and to walk to Jesus. He has taken courage, he has stepped forward in faith, but he has not yet overcome his fear. It does not take long -- perhaps but a step or two -- until “reality sets in.” Peter knows he is not able to walk on the water and begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus: “Lord. save me.”

How much does Peter reflect our lives!?

Perhaps we have courage, perhaps we have faith. We can be bold and confident … until a crisis looms, a tragedy breaks, a moment of doubt erupts, and then … and then we either turn and walk away, trying to swim back to the boat, or we reach out to Jesus and cry out with Peter: “Lord, save me.”

Therein lie the truest courage of a disciple -- the recognition that Jesus is indeed the Lord and that we are unable to save ourselves.

Let us, like Peter have the courage to know that we are totally dependent upon God, so that we might be freed from the tyranny of needing to save ourselves.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.


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Gospel reflection for Aug. 13, 2023, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is an unfortunate quirk in the liturgical cycle that the timing of the Gospel Reading on the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was preempted last week and, instead, the Gospel proclaimed was for the Solemnity of the Transfiguration.

But what we do encounter this weekend is the aftermath of this seminal event in the ministry of Jesus.

There is no doubt that the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is a turning point in the ministry of Jesus, as it is tied to the further revelation of who he is and prefigures the Eucharistic meal. Jesus knows that this miracle will change lives, cause others to see him differently, and likely expedite the plots against him.

Jesus needs to go off by himself to pray. Unlike some of the other moments when he does go with the disciples in tow, this time he sends them away, across the Sea of Galilee, so that he can be completely alone, absent of any distractions. It is likely during this time of prayer that Jesus further discerns that he needs to help the disciples to understand more fully who he is and what is about to unfold in his and their lives. The miracle of the food was an incredible event, wrapped with significant meaning and symbolism from within the Jewish tradition. Yet it needed to be explained even more. This is more than just a miracle; it is parabolic action, a moment of divine revelation. Coming to understand the miracle is confounded by the many layers on which it happens. This miracle is so significant that it is the one most recorded in the Gospels with six occurrences in the four Gospels.

The event that follows -- the walking on the water -- which we hear this weekend, is a further explanation and insight into the meaning of the multiplication, and a deeper revelation of Jesus to his disciples.

The disciples are being tossed about on the sea in the predawn when what at first appears to be a ghostly figure comes walking near them on the water. Of course they are afraid. Jesus, seeing their fear, speaks to them the word of consolation: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

The Lord moves immediately to strengthen their faith. He not only identifies himself here as their rabbi and companion, but also uses the name of God: “It is I.”

By some accounts the expression, “be not afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible, and one of the places where we see that is here in this dialogue with the disciples. This proves to be a significant turning point in the ministry of Jesus, as he is now most clearly shifting the focus of his ministry among the 12 as one of self-revelation -- Jesus showing himself as Messiah and Lord -- which prepares them for their own ministry after the Resurrection of Jesus.

It is Peter who, as we see in other moments of encounter with Jesus, expresses both certainty and doubt at the same time. Here he is willing to jump into the water and to walk to Jesus. He has taken courage, he has stepped forward in faith, but he has not yet overcome his fear. It does not take long -- perhaps but a step or two -- until “reality sets in.” Peter knows he is not able to walk on the water and begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus: “Lord. save me.”

How much does Peter reflect our lives!?

Perhaps we have courage, perhaps we have faith. We can be bold and confident … until a crisis looms, a tragedy breaks, a moment of doubt erupts, and then … and then we either turn and walk away, trying to swim back to the boat, or we reach out to Jesus and cry out with Peter: “Lord, save me.”

Therein lie the truest courage of a disciple -- the recognition that Jesus is indeed the Lord and that we are unable to save ourselves.

Let us, like Peter have the courage to know that we are totally dependent upon God, so that we might be freed from the tyranny of needing to save ourselves.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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