Monday, August 1, 2016

"DO NOT BE AFRAID."


Homily for August 2nd, 2016: Matthew 14:22-36.

          What began as a routine evening crossing of the lake soon turns into a nightmare for Jesus’ friends in their small boat. The storm which breaks on the disciples so unexpectedly this evening comes from just the direction in which they are heading. This explains why they are still far from their destination in “the fourth watch of the night.” Small wonder that they cry out in fear as they see a human figure approaching across the wind-whipped waves. It is Jesus. “Take courage,” he calls out. “It is I; do not be afraid.”

          One man in the boat is more impulsive than his companions. He no sooner recognizes Jesus than he wants to be with him. He will react in the same way after Jesus’ resurrection, upon recognizing the risen Lord on the shore after a fruitless night of fishing in the lake. (Cf. Jn. 21:7) It is Peter. “Lord,” Peter calls out, “if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus replies.

          Peter’s willingness to do the unthinkable enables him to experience the impossible. He climbs out of the boat and starts to walk to Jesus across the storm tossed waves. “But when he saw how strong the wind was,” Matthew tells us, “he became frightened. And, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

          Jesus had a special role for Peter. He was to be the leader of Jesus’ friends and thus of the Lord’s Church. This terrifying experience was part of Peter’s preparation. Years later he would remember: as long as he had kept his eyes on the Lord, he was safe. When he looked down, and saw the danger, he began to sink.

          The story assures us that when the storm rages and the night is blackest; when we cannot see the way ahead; when we are bone weary with life’s struggle and our hearts fail us for fear, Jesus is close. He only seems to be absent. In reality he is never far from us. He knows at every moment the difficulties against which we contend. Across the storm waters of this world he comes to us and chides us, as he chided Peter: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

          Happy if we today, in this hour, can respond to the Lord’s saving presence and power as his friends did in that boat. Happy if we too can bow before him in awe-struck worship and say, with those first friends of Jesus:

          “Truly, you are the Son of God!”