“Jesus Walks On Water” | License: CC0 Public Domain
First reading 1 Kings 19:9,11-13
The Lord was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire
When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heard this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Responsorial Psalm 84(85):9-14
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and give us your saving help.
I will hear what the Lord God has to say,
a voice that speaks of peace.
His help is near for those who fear him
and his glory will dwell in our land.
Mercy and faithfulness have met;
justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness shall spring from the earth
and justice look down from heaven.
The Lord will make us prosper
and our earth shall yield its fruit.
Justice shall march before him
and peace shall follow his steps.
Second reading Romans 9:1-5
I would willingly be condemned if it could help my brothers
What I want to say now is no pretence; I say it in union with Christ – it is the truth – my conscience in union with the Holy Spirit assures me of it too. What I want to say is this: my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and be cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel, my own flesh and blood. They were adopted as sons, they were given the glory and the covenants; the Law and the ritual were drawn up for them, and the promises were made to them. They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.
Gospel Matthew 14:22-33
Jesus walks on the water
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’
What happens to Peter shows us that a disciple too can also rise above the surrounding chaos. Peter left his nets to follow Jesus. Now he must walk towards Jesus across the water. He knows that he can do so, however, only if invited by Jesus, and so he cries out: ‘If it is you, tell me to come to you across the water’. Jesus’ response is so simple, so trusting and so encouraging. He simply says: ‘Come’.
On Jesus’ invitation, Peter leaves the boat. Matthew shows him as starting to walk toward Jesus on the water. However, instead of keeping his heart and his eyes on Jesus, he notices the danger and loses heart. I’m sure we all know that feeling. Now let us watch carefully. What does Peter do when he loses courage?
In his distress, he cries to the Lord and immediately Jesus reaches out and holds him. Matthew is telling us that of course Jesus will not let us go under. The waves are real and the boat is threatened, but Jesus, our Saviour, is calling to us and will receive us if we cry to him and allow him to hold us.
A further reflection is inspired by the fact that the disciples set out in daylight, and Jesus comes to them only in the last hours of darkness, just before dawn. The impression one has is that he brings the light with him, as well as enabling them to reach the shore, but only after they have battled the seas in the dark all night.
We often wonder why God does not seem to be hearing our cry. We are asked to believe that there is a divine wisdom in the timing of grace, and it seems that we all must go through the dark night to make us realise that we are totally incapable of reaching our destination on our own, as we are quite incapable on our own of letting go and admitting our own powerlessness.
There seems to be no other way to learn this lesson, except to be made to face the darkness feeling utterly alone. If we are willing to dare this journey into the night, God will not release us from it till our entire being cries out for that release and recognises that God alone can save us.