9th Sunday after Pentecost
This week is the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, the Gospel reading is from Matthew chapter 14:22-33.
The Gospel passage starts with Jesus “constraining his disciples to get into a ship”, and as always, Christ’s intentions carry a deeper metaphor than the surface shows. He wanted His disciples to be in the midst of a difficult condition; to test their faith and the depth of their trust in God “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth,” (Hebrews 12:6).
When Christ climbed the mountain to pray, He taught us how to behave when in the eye of the storm; prayer is the only port of refuge to cross the tempest tests of this life’s sea. We and the Disciples are shown that God does not leave us alone in times of trials and suffering, but is always nearer to us than we think, He looks down from heaven with the eyes of mercy and compassion and covers us with the shelter of His wings to comfort and rescue us from the troubles of this life.
Jesus insisted his disciples enter the boat and face the storm; and we as Christians should live in this world with all of its difficulties and afflictions, facing them with the fervent conviction that earthly troubles can be overcome. The Lord Jesus himself said, “In the world, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). A Christian does not escape life’s troubles but confronts them with patience, faith and prayer.
The disciples found themselves in the most difficult of situations for a human to bear, alone, in the middle of the sea, in a boat being tossed about by the waves, and it was during the fourth quarter of the night (which is between midnight and 3AM when darkness is most potent, and the body is weary and the tempest is at its peak). This was not only a mere difficult situation, but a seriously dangerous and life-threatening one, and yet the Lord Jesus continued to test the faith of His disciples and their reliance on Him. What happened here offers us a vivid reflection of what is happening to us Christians in our daily lives. We are right in the middle of the ocean of this age, being slammed about by the powerful and choppy waves of this life, and our only refuge is the boat — that is The Church — to be able to cross this raging sea, armed with the oars of prayer and faith in Christ who will come to us and say as He said to His disciples “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”
Maybe we will doubt his presence in our midst, as his disciples did when they thought him a ghost, “and they cried in fear”. But St. Peter, known for his bright zeal, asked the Lord to let him come to him walking on water. Jesus said to him “come” and Peter went down and walked on the water towards He who saves. But when he shifted his sight from the Saviour and began to look to the right and to the left, occupied by the troubles around him, he became frightened from the scale of the dangers and troubles that surrounded him and he started to drown.
We should take note that Jesus did not calm the storm; He didn’t change anything about the surrounding external conditions but instead revealed his mercy by responding to Peter’s faith and allowing inner peace to dwell within him as he walked on water. It was only when Peter began to doubt and panic because of the ‘waves’ surrounding him, that he began sinking again. When he shifted his line of sight from the Lord Jesus, that fear set in, but he did not despair, instead he devoutly cried out in faith: “Lord save me” and the Lord then turned and grabbed his hand, lifted him again from the centre of the storm to the boat of salvation. Again, He confirmed what he said to his disciples “for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5), and when Jesus settled in the boat, the winds calmed and peace dwelt among them.
The presence of Christ always brings calmness and serenity; when the disciples saw the authority of Jesus on nature, and how he cured the sick and fed to complete satisfaction the crowd of five thousand, then they had certainty that he is the Lord and Redeemer, and they worshiped Him saying: “Actually, you’re the Son of God.”
How many times do we find ourselves in the middle of tribulations full of aches and pains, we fall into despair and believe we cannot cross the seas of this life to the other shore, but rest assured, if we enter the boat (The Church) and we put our hope and our confidence in the skipper of this boat, the Lord Jesus and The Saviour, we will get to safety and salvation, and if we lapse and doubt because of the strength of the winds and waves, we shall turn back and shout like Peter, saying: “Lord save me” and the Lord will come in an unforeseen way, walking on these waves without being swallowed by them to hold our hand and bring us towards Him.
Every time we sail on this sea of life and meet problems and difficulties of this life let us remember the glorified Lord’s saying: “Be of good cheer; it is I; do not be afraid.” Amen
+ Metropolitan Basilios Kodseie