19th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A
1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a
Romans 9: 1-5
Matthew 14: 22-33
Today’s Gospel miracle of Jesus walking on water has been the target of a lot of humor.
There was a frugal man who took a trip to the Holy Land. When he got to the Sea of Galilee he was aghast to find out that it would cost $50 an hour to rent a boat.
“Where I live,” he said, “I can get a boat for $20.”
“That may be true,” the boat agent told him, “but you have to remember that the Sea of Galilee is water on which Our Blessed Lord Himself once walked.”
“I’m not surprised,” the frugal man said. “At $50 an hour for a boat, it’s no wonder that He walked!”
In today’s Gospel – which comes right after last Sunday’s Gospel about the feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish – Jesus “made His disciples get into a boat and precede Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds.” Jesus wanted some time to pray by Himself. After all, that is why He had come there in the first place, before His privacy had been invaded by all the townspeople.
So the disciples set out across the lake. A sudden storm cropped up and they were struggling against the winds and the waves.
Then “during the fourth watch of the night” – the fourth watch was between 3:00 and 6:00 AM – Jesus “came toward them, walking on the sea.”
“It is a ghost,” they cried out in fear.
Then Jesus said to the frightened disciples, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
Simon Peter spoke up: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.”
Peter began to walk on the water. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened. And beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus stretched out His hand and caught Peter. [I suspect Jesus had a smile on His face.] And Jesus said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’
After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did Jesus homage saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Simon Peter’s character comes across clearly in this Gospel passage.
Peter was given to acting upon impulse rather than thinking things through. At the Last Supper he affirmed his loyalty to Jesus: “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be.” And Jesus said to Peter, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows, you will deny me three times” [Matthew 26: 33-34].
Peter’s trouble was that he was ruled by his heart and not by his head. Yet however many times Peter might fail, his heart was always in the right place. And the instinct of his heart was always love.
But Peter never totally failed, for always in the moment of His failure he turned to Christ. The wonderful thing about Peter is that every time he fell, he rose again. And through the lens of grace, even Peter’s failures brought him closer to Jesus Christ.
As the wise saying goes: “A saint is not a person who never fails; a saint is someone who gets up and goes on again every time they fall.” With God’s merciful love, Peter’s failures only made him love Jesus all the more.
When Jesus got into the boat, the wind died down. The great truth is that, wherever Jesus Christ is, the wildest storm becomes a calm.
Saint Francis de Sales noticed a girl going across the farmyard to draw water at the well. He also noticed that, before she lifted the filled-to-the-brim pail, the girl would always put a piece of wood into it
One day he asked her, “Why do you do that?” She looked surprised and answered, as if it were perfectly obvious, “Why? I keep the wood floating in the center of the pail to keep the water from spilling… to keep it steady!”
Writing to a friend later on, the bishop Francis de Sales told the story and added: “So when your heart is distressed and agitated, put the Cross into its center and keep it steady!”
This Gospel teaches us that no matter how fierce the storm – when we act on impulse rather than on solid thought, or when we fall and then struggle to get back up – to keep our eyes on Jesus. We need to focus on our faith and not on our fears.
In every time of storm and stress, the presence of Jesus and the love which flows from His Cross can bring us serenity and peace and calm inside of us, no matter what is going on outside.
“Take courage,” Jesus says. “It is I. Do not be afraid.”