Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father Steven Reilly, LC
Matthew 14: 22-33
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Introductory Prayer: Father, I believe in you with all my heart. I trust in your infinite goodness and mercy. Thank you for so patiently guiding me along the pathway to everlasting life. I love you and offer all that I have and all that I do to you, for your glory and the salvation of souls.
Petition: Lord, help me to trust in you when I am making my decisions.
1. The Divine Name: As if being battered by the wind and waves weren’t enough to instill a feeling of doom and dread, in the midst of it all, the apostles saw a shadowy figure gliding along the water. They were scared! Who wouldn’t be? Jesus speaks directly to their fear. “Take heart, it is I,” – literally in early Greek translation, “I am.” This is biblical code language that evokes in a powerful way the presence of God. When Moses stood before the burning bush, at a loss as to how he, the tongue-tied fugitive from Egypt, was supposed to go back to the Pharaoh and convince that hardened soul to liberate the enslaved Hebrews, he felt he just could not do it. God’s answer to Moses’ hesitation and doubt was to tell Moses his name, “I AM”. God’s very name is presence, and that presence brings reassurance. We are not alone as we face life’s challenges.
2. Walking on Water: Peter’s gut reaction is to believe in Christ. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” As he stands up in the boat, preparing for that daring leap, the other disciples are hunkered down, still holding on for dear life. Peter’s faith inspires us: At times we face crucial decisions and feel like we are about to jump out of a boat as well. The indecision we experience can seem rational. We don’t want to drown, after all. But Peter’s leap was not simply blind or foolhardy. He knew that by himself he was better off putting on a life jacket. But Christ was commanding him, “Come.” This story is not a recipe for rashness. It is a story of faith-filled obedience. When we know in our heart of hearts that Jesus has said “Come,” the leap that we take is a good decision because it is grounded in faith and trust.
3. A Helping Hand: Peter takes the leap, but he brings all his flaws with him as he lands on the solid water. The wind and the waves overwhelm his awareness of the miracle, and along with the doubt he finds himself in the water. How beautiful that Peter’s very fall awakens his faith again. He does not attempt to rely on his own swimming prowess to get back into the boat. He cries out, “Lord, save me.” Christ’s heart is filled with mercy. He immediately stretches out his hand to save his water-logged vicar. He is anxious for Peter—and us—to learn the lesson. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” In other words, “Don’t take your eyes off of me! I will keep you afloat.”
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, you called Peter to walk on water. As long as he believed in you and your power he was fine, but his doubt got the upper hand. Strengthen my faith so that I can be obedient to you. Help me when the wind and the waves are fierce, and the inclination to doubt asserts itself. Help me to stay on top of the water!
Resolution: I will pray first and then make faith-filled decisions today.