From the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’
After reading the Gospel, is there anything in particular that stands out for you? Consider the following questions.
I think about my life:
- What is God asking me to listen to?
- What does God want me to pay attention to?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding me to in this reading?
I think about my community and the world:
- What is God asking of us at this time?
- What is God wanting us to attend to in our community and our world?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding us towards?
This Gospel is the continuation of the story from last week about the feeding of thousands. You might like to imagine what it is like to be part of this story.
Can you imagine yourself in the boat with the disciples? Jesus has gone off alone to pray and told them to get into this boat. How might they be feeling after what just took place with the crowds? What about as the storm starts to develop? Can you imagine what they might be saying to one another?
All of a sudden they see Jesus approaching them walking on the lake. They become even more terrified saying, “It is a ghost!” We too, when we panic, become suspicious and fearful even of goodness – only gradually do we recognise that it is a moment of grace.
Then out of the wind and waves and in the midst of their fear comes a voice of comfort. “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” Here, Jesus identifies himself. And Peter is the first to respond. The incident with Peter that follows is one that has captured the imagination of Christians through the centuries.
Jesus calls Peter out of the boat, Peter takes those first few steps … but his fear gets the better of him and he cries out, “Lord, Save me!”
Perhaps in this moment, it is worth us reflecting on the fact that Jesus is not in the boat; he is in the hostile environment we often fear to enter. We have to go out, into the water and waves to meet him, in spite of these dangers and possible setbacks.
The challenge of this Gospel is not to ask whether you think it happened, or indeed whether or not you think it could happen. Such questions are not about faith, but about history and physics. The challenge is that each of us, and all of us as a community, has to be prepared to leave our boat and venture out towards Jesus. It is only in going towards him in trust that we discover who he truly is.