Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Storms, hurricanes, pandemics, explosions are real signs that Christ is coming again. The whisper is how he speaks to us, and how he spoke to the prophets of old. What is he telling you and me in these events that we see around us today? It is important to discern this in silence, in prayer, which can easily be avoided, but is crucial for us.
The apostles were under extreme distress in their boat for ten or twelve hours, and the waters were torturing them. There was screaming, waves, water and pounding, and suddenly an apparition of a ghost walking on the water. Why didn’t Jesus act sooner, why did he let them (and us) suffer for so long? I think he wanted to cleanse them from their fear and to do this it first had to circulate through their body and soul.
Only weak ones can gain this wisdom when they are convinced of their own inability over evil. Often we look for solutions outside, as we saw last week when the disciples wanted to send the hungry crowds home, instead of feeding them. However, the answer in the gospels comes from within. In this case it was walking on the water in the middle of the storm. Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, I AM here.” I AM is the name of God, the one who always was, is, and will be, the one who acts, and has power to save you. I created you and I created these elements that have for hours anguished you. Do not be afraid can also be translated as: I forbid you to be afraid for one more second. This fear must be purged so that the peace of Christ can enter.
Peter responds and goes out walking on the water. First impulses are a great thing, says St. Theresa of Avila, even if we doubt later on as Peter did. He noticed the wind and his own weakness and started to sink. This was my experience also in my first parish, in the first two months. I felt totally alone even with three other priests in the same house and a big parish. God used that situation to help me to seek his help and call out to him, as Peter did, and as all of us should do. From that time on I realized that the vocation was not possible only on my strength and that only the Lord and a community of sinners, like myself, could keep me afloat.
Peter also needed this humiliation of sinking in front of Christ and the other apostles. This experience was no small part of how he became the prince, the leader, of the Twelve. Peter saw that he had to fall into the hands of Christ to be saved. Calling Christ ‘my Savior’ was a reality, not just a pretty phrase.
Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” Peter cannot give an answer. Why were you of two minds? is the literal meaning. This is the deepest enemy of our faith: I want to believe and adore only God, but with my corrupted mind I panic, sometimes at the silliest thing. We ought to learn from these experiences.
The gospel is a profound catechesis. First, Peter is afraid when he is with others in the boat, then alone on the water he goes ahead, but fear causes him to sink. Then he calls out: “Lord, help me!!” And he is caught by Christ in the nick of time and walks back in total safety supported by him; no wind or wave can take this from him. Even the storm continues to rage until they are reunited in the boat with others. The boat is the church, where my union with Christ brings me to others, to a community of brothers and sisters. I cannot go back to my them alone, only if Christ is with me. Peace doesn’t belong to one, but to all, and cannot exist without Christ and the community.
In the boat the apostles can worship: they bow down before Him. You and I need not drown in the vortex of fear from pandemics, or hurricanes, or health issues, or whatever. Christ comes to pull us up and to give us communion with others who are also weak.