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The story of the apostles caught in the storm on the Sea of Galilee perfectly fits our contemporary situation. Jesus had recently performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 with only two fish and five loaves. Then he sent the twelve young apostles in a boat to cross over to Gennesareth while he dismissed the crowds. During the passage, a storm broke, and winds pushed strongly against the boat, blocking its progress and threatening to capsize the boat. The twelve young men were terrified. Would they get out of this storm alive?
That, my friends, is where you and I often find ourselves. When our routine is disturbed, when our security is threatened, when huge problems arise and we don’t know how to cope with them, then we are with the twelve in their boat, buffeted by the winds, pitching in the waves, and scared for our lives.
That is real life. Think of the fears that accompany the Covid-19 pandemic. Or think of a mother whose child is seriously sick or having problems. Think of a father whose job is insecure, and fears for how he will provide for his family. Think of people who have to live with racial discrimination or religious persecution. Think of parents who are trying to protect their children from a highly secularized and materialist society. Think of those in leadership positions, who must cope daily with new problems that could erase all their efforts to build a successful program, or a thriving organization.
Think about the future of our country, if the majority of our citizens do not have a clear sense of justice, and a grasp of morality.
We can all identify closely with those twelve young men in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee.
Then Jesus appears to them in the early morning walking on water! Now, you don’t walk on water. If you try, you will sink. But here is Jesus walking on the water, with the wind blowing and the waves tossing up sprays of water. The 12 were terrified, thinking that they were seeing a fantasy.
Then Jesus cries out: “Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid!” Jesus is right there with them, sharing in their perils, and telling them to not be afraid. You can ride out the storm. You will get to shore safely. This storm is only a brief episode, and obstacle to overcome. Place your trust I me. I am with you. I will protect you. You will come out of this storm a stronger, and better, and more faith-filled person.
Brothers and sisters, when we are in troubled times, and troubled waters, remember that Jesus is right there with us. He know what is happening. He wants us to have complete trust, complete faith in Him. He will help us get through this difficulty, this misfortune, this physical illness, this emotional or mental trauma.
St. Pope John Paul said that there are no coincidences inn life. If things don’t go according to our plans, if setbacks and quasi-tragedies befall us, then we are to accept them, and to try to see how God is giving a certain direction to our lives. God is right there with us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants us to place our full trust in Him, and to continue moving towards the shore of our commitments, and our destiny.
Peter wanted to test what he was seeing, but could hardly believe his eyes. “Lord, if it is you, then command me to come to you walking on the water.” And Jesus said: “Come!” So Peter left the boat and began to walk on water. With Jesus’ support, he could do this. His faith could make him do the impossible. But faith requires conviction, and leaves no room for ambivalence. When Peter realized what he was doing, and how unnatural it was to ordinary life, his faith evaporated and he began to sink.
Still, he could cry out: “Lord, save me!” And Jesus grabbed him by the hand, pulled him up and set him back again, on the surface of the water, and they walked back to the boat! “O you of little faith! Why did you doubt me?”
Brothers and sisters, when we are in a storm, when everything seems to be going wrong, and collapsing, then we are with Peter and the other eleven in their pitching boat.
That is when we are to renew our faith. We know God is with us in this storm. We know that this life on earth has it problems, its uncertainties, its seemingly irremovable obstacles. God allows these to happen. There are strong evil forces at work in our world. At times, they seem to be in control, and we cannot change them. Think of what it must have been to live in Poland during WW II, and then during the Yalta period under Communism. This was the experience of the young Karol Wojtyla.
But God is in control. He is the center and the goal of all history. Life always prevails over death; love always prevails over hatred, goodness over evil, and truth over lies and confusion.
When the storm quiets, and we arrive safely at the shore, then we shall be very relieved. We can look back over what we have experienced, and survived, and know that we are a much stronger, and mature, person for having endured this great trial by placing our full trust in God, and riding out the storm.
Be not afraid!