Life on the Stormy Seas
19th Sunday Ordinary Time
August 13, 2017
Jesus dismissed the crowds, sent the disciples away in a boat, and headed for the hills for some solitude and prayer with God (Matthew 14:22–23). Meanwhile, the disciples were out in the middle of the water, battling a terrible storm on the sea of Galilee. No doubt Jesus was aware of the struggles of his followers. The disciples must wondered about it too – after all, hadn't he sent them out in the midst of the storm? Wasn't Jesus praying up in the hills, where he could look out over the water and see the struggle actually taking place? Jesus watches – but for now does nothing.
When Jesus finally does come to the rescue, it is at the fourth watch of the night: that is, right before dawn. In other words, Jesus prayed all night and left the disciples to struggle until he completely finished praying. Jesus thus teaches us the importance of solitude and prayer in our own lives. All our major decisions should be preceded by at least a moment of prayer.
It is "night" for the disciples – a time of struggle, when God appears to be absent. Like the disciples’ night on the choppy seas, our lives can be full of storms and struggles, and what is more, it can seem as if this is the way God wants it to be. Jesus allows the disciples, both then and now, to do battle on earth with trials of all kinds, because somehow they are necessary for growth, our faith, our trust in our future. We don't see this now, but we will understand later. Like this gospel, Jesus may not show up until the last minute, but he is still always with us, and will help us. But we must wait.
When Jesus finally does arrive, Peter and the others are terrified by this ghostly apparition coming to them on the waters. Peter says, "If it is really you Jesus, let me come to you on the waters." Peter steps out of the boat in faith, thus becoming the only man besides Jesus in Scripture to ever walk on water. Yet soon Peter begins to sink. Amazingly, Peter is not afraid of the waves, but of the wind. Like Peter, sometimes it's the little things that get us in trouble.
Why did Peter sink? Because he took his eyes off Jesus. Peter could do the impossible, even walk on water, as long as he kept his eyes, his focus on Jesus. In our own pilgrimage of life, our goal is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in the storms of life. We can get in trouble when our spiritual eyes are focused on ourselves only, or on only satisfying our material desires, or on our fear. Daily prayer helps us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Thus even when the storms of life are upon us and our Lord seems to delay in coming, we will not think because we have not lost sight of our Savior, coming to us across the stormy waters of our hearts, even now.