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Faith Matters – Walking on Water

Brendan Nicholls  |  14 August 2019

As we arrive at the middle of the term the commitments we have and the pressure we experience become increasingly obvious.

Often we can mask the pressures around us but at times they mount up and threaten to overwhelm us. As assessment task submission dates draw nearer and the commitments at school and externally increase the ability for each of us to pause and truly rest diminishes. With this in mind it may be a timely reminder that Scripture can reveal to us a solution to a  human cyclic problem and that we need to pause and go back to the source of our faith and of our community.

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John all record the account of Jesus walking on water. Much theological and biblical scholarship has been directed to this event throughout history and a number of conclusions have been determined. Interestingly the Gospel of Luke omits the account, which is perplexing when considering the overriding theme of Luke’s Gospel.

VARIOUS INTERPRETATIONS

Scholars have suggested that the account truly may be a nature miracle where Jesus’ divinity is further revealed and affirmed. However, this outcome depends largely upon the personal faith and belief of the reader. It has also been concluded that the account may be based upon an event that actually occurred although not literally in the manner the text offers, whereby the truth of the story is in what it may illustrate about Jesus and our personal relationship with him.

The account in the three Gospels it remarkably similar with only Matthew offering a variation. In each account the disciples had been sent by Jesus to the other side of Galilee. The wind is moderate and the waves make rowing the boat difficult. Jesus who had gone up to the mountain to pray. After they had travelled a number of miles across the lake they see Jesus whom they believe is a ghost and are terrified. Jesus tells them “do not be afraid” and comes into the boat. The wind calms. 

The Gospel of Matthew has an additional component. Upon seeing Jesus and hearing his voice Peter tests Jesus and says “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”. Jesus invites him out, yet the waves make Peter fearful, his faith waivers and he starts to sink. Calling out Jesus “Lord save me”, Peter is held by Jesus and they enter the boat.

COMFORT AND REASSURANCE

In reflecting on the account there is much that can be revealed to us today and how our busy lives may be an allegory or parallel to the passage.

As the wind and waves rise around our boat we find that our family and friends, like the disciples, become agitated and fearful. We need comfort and reassurance and although our loved ones and networks offer us that peace as a small community there is a point where internally ‘we’ cannot offer what is needed. There is a limit on the peace and assurance we can offer on another. Our ‘boat’ at times is challenged by the things around us and progress is difficult at best.

At times of stress we need to be aware of our destination. What is it that we are work towards? What are our goals and how can this vision guide our course, or at least maintain the right direction?

JESUS IS WITH US

We also need to be aware of Jesus who is with us and makes himself known particularly at these times. He may seem slightly distant but we need to look outside of our ‘boat’ as the disciples did as he makes his way toward us. When you notice his presence in all of the commotion around it may surprise or ‘terrify’ you somewhat. Jesus is very good at disguising himself in troubling situations and often we see him in a person or event that we do not expect. Do not be alarmed when you recognise him in a way in which you did not expect.

When you have noticed Jesus the Gospel of Matthew encourages you to be bold. Call out to him, have courage and step into the things that threaten your boat. Jesus does not fear the wind or the waves, he has power over them and will calm the storm. Even in this turmoil with great assurance and love he calls us out to be with him. He shows us we have nothing to fear. We are like him; we are made in his image.

CALM THE STORM

When you step out of the boat and enter into the things that cause agitation or concern do so with faith. Peter hesitated for a moment as the waves struck him and started to sink. But he became the rock on which the Church was build, Jesus believed in him and he was the first Pope. If Peter’s faith waivered in the physical presence of Our Lord it’s natural that at times your faith may also ebb when you need it most. But just as he saved Peter he will save you and calm the storm. In stepping out of the boat your faith has been affirmed and Jesus will not let you be swallowed by the sea.

As Peter called out to Jesus we should also in times of need. When we are struggling he will reach out and lift us up. Jesus will calm us and the storm. He will take us back and enter our ‘boat’. He will calm the storm and comfort those who travel with us in life. The journey will soon become pleasant and easy again. Jesus is with us.

These things are true. These promises are revealed. Of these things we can be sure.

STEP INTO THE DEEP

As you journey through the school term in your role as parent, student, teacher, family member, remember that the events of life are cyclic. We move between times of peace and tranquillity and times of agitation and tension as ‘life’ happens. It is in the times of agitation or pressure where we need to especially pause and consider what has been revealed to us by Jesus and be assured of his presence and promises. I hope that although metaphorical these thoughts might be helpful and that you may be able to apply them to your experiences at half way point of this terms ‘journey’.

Have courage, step into the deep, call out to Jesus, receive the peace and contentment he promises.

Brendan Nicholls is Liturgy Coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong

Image: depositphotos.com

 

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