A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side of the sea,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him,
and said to him, “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 him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”
After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret.
When the men of that place recognized him,
they sent word to all the surrounding country.
People brought to him all those who were sick
and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak,
and as many as touched it were healed.
Good News Reflection: The unexpected Jesus
We often have the same problem the disciples did in the Gospel reading for today. Jesus approaches us in an unexpected way and we freak out. We misinterpret his presence — “It’s a ghost!” It’s a tragedy! It’s just my imagination! It’s illogical! It’s impossible! God would never speak through thatperson! If it’s not what I want to hear, it can’t be right!
For example, in 1977, while I was very much a Protestant, God graced me with a belief in the miracle of transubstantiation — the transforming of the substance of bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus through the consecration prayers of the Catholic priest at Mass. I thought: This is super-wonderful, but it does not mean he’s saying I should become Catholic. As a well-trained “PROTESTant”, I had many reasons why God would not do that.
I started going to Mass just to be near the Eucharist and to be around others who understood this miracle, and my spiritual life blossomed. Even so, the invitation to become a full-fledged Catholic was like Jesus approaching me on the water. It couldn’t be real. I was so certain of this that I behaved like the other disciples — not Peter, but the others who hunkered down in the boat when they saw the “ghost”.
Eventually, this hunkering position caused spiritual muscle cramps. My prayer life dried up and no matter how I tried to revive it, I just could not feel connected to God. I shared this problem with a friend; she suggested that the dryness was my refusal to listen to God inviting me to become Catholic. Her words rang true. God always speaks directly to our hearts first, before he speaks to us through the voices of others, so that when the advice given to us by people is truly divinely inspired, it sounds already familiar.
However, I was not yet ready to believe what she said. To test it, I decided to become like Peter when he said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Still unwilling to jump out of my Protestant boat, I prayed, “If what my friend said is really true, then prove it to me. Give me a sign.” I even chose the sign he should give me, just like Peter did. Asking for a sign can be used by the Enemy to mislead us, but if we’re careful and discerning, and if we use it for the right reasons, God honors the request.
God gave me the sign that I had asked for and nearly knocked me over with it. Surrendering my doubts, I stepped out of the security of the old boat, and I’ve been following Jesus on an endless adventure of water-walking ever since!
What about you? In what ways is Jesus doing the unexpected, the illogical, the discomforting? Dare to step out of your boat. Don’t look at the waves or the impossibility of walking on water. Keep your eyes on Jesus. If you freak out and start to fail and flail, he’ll grab you and rescue you, just as he did for Peter.
My Lord: Help me to recognize your presence when the storms whip my life. Strengthen my faith and my trust, so with my eyes fixed in You, I may help those brothers and sisters who, in the middle of their trials, can’t see You near them. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica