Do not be afraid to accept His terms and step out of the boat.
In today’s gospel, we hear about one of the most incredible miracles ever recorded in history. Jesus sends His disciples ahead of Him by boat across the Sea of Galilee, and during their journey through the night, He walks out on the water to meet them. Today, we will look at just one possible way of encountering Our Lord here as we enter into this scene as one of the disciples on the boat that night. Often, we see ourselves as Peter. We imagine the waves of life coming to crash over us as we sink into the sea, but Christ saves us before it is too late. But viewing this scene from another perspective can help us to appreciate how Jesus is speaking to us in the midst of our sometimes hectic lives.
“When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified” (Mt 14:26).
Let us imagine that we are one of these disciples on the boat. Last we saw of Jesus, He was sending us off on our own to “precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds” (Mt 14:22). As our boat drifted further from shore we looked back to see Jesus receiving and giving love to the many people who we had just helped him feed with five loaves and two fish. “Why did He not want me with Him? Why does He want to be alone?” These questions rattled around in our mind as the waves began to crash against the boat.
Now, it is late in the night and our senses are overwhelmed by the roaring of the sea, the howling of the wind, and the haunting creaks of the boat as it teeters its way across the waters. All we wish for is rest, but we cannot hope to even close our eyes with all the commotion. Our heart and mind are filled with anxiety and fear. And in all this, Our Lord is elsewhere. “Why did He leave us? Where is He?” Suddenly, we hear one of the others cry out, frantically pointing out to sea. The nervous tension is renewed within us as we go to look. Out on the water is a figure, who seems to be illuminated by a soft glow. “It is a ghost” (Mt 14:26). Our heart beats faster, as we scramble with the others to try and save ourselves. But “at once”, almost as quickly as we began to panic, a strong and gentle voice echoes out on the wind, piercing through the noise and chaos.
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27).
The words find their way into the depths of our heart, stopping our frenzied thoughts dead in their tracks. “Could it really be Him?” We look to the others to see if it is true, but these faces, along with our own, are not a sight of courage or trust. All of these faces are warped in shock and fear, as they do not dare to look at the figure on the water. All save one. Peter is staring intently at the man, the words have touched his heart and flared in him something beyond himself. His face is so serene, completely enraptured in what he is seeing and hearing. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Mt 14:28). We are baffled by Peter’s words. “Why not just stay on the boat and bid Him to come to us? It is much safer that way!” Yet, there is something in his eyes. Peter is determined to go out there if it truly is Jesus. He must be insane. No. He is in love.
“Come” (Mt 14:29). This simple word from Jesus was enough to move Peter to step out of the boat onto the dark waters. The question this reflection raises is whether or not we would even step off the boat in the first place. Many of us remain like one of these nameless disciples on the boat, who hear the Word speaking to us, but never allow Him to move our hearts into action. We do not respond to Christ’s gentle invitation of mercy and peace with generosity and love, like Peter, but rather with timidity and a reticent heart. Yet, we are quick to do him “homage” when he finally does step into our boat. We shirk the risk of faith by trying to calculate and manage our lives without Him present, but we thank God and feel safe as soon as He meets our conditions and demands. This skews the truth that Our Lord comes to meet us where we are in our lives, just as He came to meet the disciples out at sea in the middle of the night. He comes, yes, but on His terms. He came because of love, love for His friends with whom He longed to be. Love is not safe, and neither is God, who is Love. Mr. Beaver from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe states this quite well when he says this about Aslan, the Christ figure of the book, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
Jesus desires us to come to Him with a trust and love that is free from fear. We must not hide behind our safety nets any longer. Take the risk of faith and of love for Jesus Christ. Friends, let us hear Our Lord’s words with a humble and contrite spirit. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt 14:31) Let us acknowledge our own doubts and fears, our anxieties and concerns, that stop us from answering His call to come to Him with loving abandon and our eyes fixed on Him. Do not be afraid to accept His terms and step out of the boat. The Son of God, the King, has come to us, to each one of us, and has extended His hand. Will we answer His invitation and come to Him? He has shown His love for us, now it is time for us to show our love for Him.
Reflection for Prayer:
Spend time in silent prayer today and ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the boat in your life. What is the thing or person or idea that you cling to for security. Ask for the courage to let go and step out from it towards Jesus, whose Sacred Heart is waiting for you.