Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace

You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don't let yourself indulge in vain wishes. - Rabindranath Tagore

Gospel text (Mt 14:22-36): After the crowds have eaten their fill, Jesus obliged his disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. And having sent the people away, He went up the mountain by himself to pray. At nightfall, He was there alone.

Meanwhile, the boat was very far from land, dangerously rocked by the waves for the wind was against it. At daybreak, Jesus came to them walking on the lake. When they saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, thinking that it was a ghost. And they cried out in fear. But at once Jesus said to them, «Courage! Don't be afraid. It's me!». Peter answered, «Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you walking on the water». Jesus said to him, «Come». And Peter got out of the boat, walking on the water to go to Jesus. But, in face of the strong wind, he was afraid and began to sink. So he cried out, «Lord, save me!». Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and took hold of him, saying, «Man of little faith, why did you doubt?». As they got into the boat, the wind dropped. Then those in the boat bowed down before Jesus saying, «Truly, you are the Son of God!».

They came ashore at Gennesareth. The local people recognized Jesus and spread the news throughout the region. So they brought all the sick to him, begging him to let them touch just the fringe of his cloak. All who touched it became perfectly well.

These days in the Christian community we need lots of folks with the courage of Peter. His at this moment of this story is not a great courage, but it is a wise courage. That is, he trusts his limited insight and tests whether what he sees is Jesus by asking him to give him the command that he is familiar with – “Come.” Perhaps he hears the Lord say “get out of the boat and walk on that stormy water – I will give you my power to do so.” That certainly is what he is willing to do. How many of us instead of asking for the truth of the vision in front of us huddle in the boat of the familiar way of doing things – unwilling and too frightened to test the new possibilities suggested by this way of experiencing Christ.

This faith was first demanded to Peter, who said: «Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you walking on the water» (Mt 14:28). With these words, Peter showed that faith consists of abiding by the word of Christ: he did not say «let me walk on the water» but he just wanted to follow what the very and only Lord could command him to do, to believe the truthfulness of the Master's words. His doubts, however, made him reel, but they led the other disciples to bow down and confess before their Master: «Truly, you are the Son of God!» (Mt 14:33). «The group of those that already were apostles, but did not yet fully believe, when they saw the waters waving below the Lord's feet and appreciated his steps were firm through the stormy waves (...) they believed Jesus was the true Son of God, and accepted him as such» (St. Ambrose).

Christ’s coming to us will often be in demanding, stretching, and challenging ways – calling us out of the false securities within which we huddle in fear. Its this “fear” that doesn’t want to take the time to discern whether it is Jesus who calls me to some new and challenging task – the task of loving more deeply, responding more enthusiastically, trying something new and dangerous – and life giving! It is the fear that doesn’t want me to risk even praying to find out what the Spirit calls me to. It is the silent dread that refuses the work of opening my heart and mind to the call to “Come.”

"In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

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