Sunday, August 13, 2017
Jesus walks on the sea
Matthew 14, 22-33
1. Opening prayer
Come Holy Spirit, my life is going through a storm, the egoistic winds impel me where I do not wish to go, I cannot resist their force. I am weak and deprived of strength. You are the energy which gives life. You are my comfort, my force and my cry of prayer. Come, Holy Spirit, reveal to me the sense of the Scriptures, give me peace anew, serenity and the joy of living.
a) Key to the reading:
Jesus and his Disciples are on the side of the lake, at night fall, after the multiplication of the loaves. Part of the passage is also found in Mark (6, 45-52) and in John (6, 16-21). The episode of Peter (vv. 28-32) is found only in Matthew. Some commentators hold that it is a question of an apparition of Jesus after the Resurrection (Lk 24, 37). The difficulties of the Church and the need for a greater faith in the Risen Jesus are thus foreshadowed.
b) A possible division of the Text:
Matthew 14, 22-23: related to the multiplication of the loaves
Matthew 14, 24-27: Jesus walks on the sea
Matthew 14, 28-32: the episode of Peter
Matthew 14, 33: the profession of faith.
22 And at once he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he sent the crowds away. 23 After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 while the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind. 25 In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea, 26 and when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. 'It is a ghost,' they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, 'Courage! It's me! Don't be afraid.' 28 It was Peter who answered. 'Lord,' he said, 'if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.' 29 Jesus said, 'Come.' Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, 30 but then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink. 'Lord,' he cried, 'save me!' 31 Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'You have so little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?' 32 And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. 33 The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, 'Truly, you are the Son of God.'
3. A Moment of prayerful silence
A desire to keep silence and to listen to God’s voice.
In moments of darkness and interior storms, how do I react? How are the presence and absence of the Lord integrated in me? What place does personal prayer and dialogue with God have in me?
What do we ask the Lord in a dark night? A miracle, that he frees us from this? A greater faith? In which attitudes am I similar to Peter?
22. And at once he made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead to the other side while he sent the crowds away.
The multiplication of the loaves (14, 13-21) could have generated in the disciples triumphant expectations concerning the Kingdom of God. Therefore, Jesus orders them at once to get away. He ‘obliged’, usually a verb of strong significance. The people acclaim Jesus as a Prophet (Jn 6, 14-15) and wish to make him a political ruler. The disciples are easily drawn by this (Mk 6, 52; Mt 16, 5-12), there is the risk of allowing themselves to be drawn by the enthusiasm of the people. The disciples have to abandon this situation.
23. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came he was there alone.
Jesus finds himself in front a situation in which the Galilean crowd becomes enthusiastic because of the miracle and runs the risk of not understanding His mission. In this very important moment, Jesus withdraws alone in prayer, as in Gethsemane (Mt 26, 36-46).
24. While the boat, by now some furlongs from land, was hard pressed by rough waves, for there was a head-wind.
This verse where the boat is noticed, without Jesus, in danger, can be close to verse 32 where the danger ceases when Jesus and Peter get into the boat.
25. In the fourth watch of the night he came towards them, walking on the sea.
Jesus appears to his disciples in an extraordinary way. He transcends the human limitations, he has authority on creation. He acts as God alone can do it (Job 9, 8; 38, 16).
26. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’, they said, and cried out in fear.
The disciples were struggling with the contrary wind, they had lived a very impressing day and now a sleepless night. At night (between three and six), in the middle of the sea, they were really terrified in seeing one coming towards them. They did not think in the possibility that it could be Jesus. Their vision is too human , and they believe in ghosts (Lk 24, 37). The Risen Lord though, has overcome the force of chaos represented by the waves of the sea.
27. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying. ‘Courage! It is me! Do not be afraid!.
The presence of Jesus drives away all fear (9, 2.22). In saying “It is me” he evokes his identity (Es 3, 14) and manifests the power of God (Mk 14, 62; Lk 24, 39; Jn 8, 58; 18, 5-6). Fear is overcome by faith.
28. It was Peter who answered: ‘Lord, he said, ‘If it is you, tell me to come to you across the water’.
Peter seems to want still another confirmation of the presence of Jesus. He asks for a sign.
29. Jesus said, ‘Come’. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water.
Nevertheless, Peter is ready to run the risk, getting out of the boat and trying to walk on the agitated waves, in the midst of a strong wind (v. 24). He faces the risk of believing in the Word: ‘Come’.
30. But then noticing the wind, he took fright and began to sink: ‘Lord’, he cried, ‘save me!’
Perseverance is also necessary in the choice of faith. The contrary forces (the wind) are so many, that there is the risk of sinking. The prayer of petition saves him..
31. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘You have so little faith, he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
Peter is not left alone in his weakness. In the storms of Christian life we are not alone. God does not abandon us even if apparently is absent and does nothing.
32. And as they got into the boat the wind dropped.
As soon as Jesus got in the boat the forces of evil cease. The force of hell shall not prevail over it.
33. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said: ¡Truly, you are the Son of God.’
Now comes that profession of faith which had been prepared in the preceding episode of the multiplication of the loaves, purified by the experience of getting away from the Bread of eternal life (Jn 6, 1-14). Now Peter can also confirm his brothers in faith, after the trial.
5. For those who wish to go deeper into the text
Jesus, man of prayer
Jesus prays in solitude and at night (Mt 14, 23; Mk 1, 35; Lk 5, 16), during the time of meals (Mt 14, 19; 15, 36; 26, 26-27). On the occasion of important events: for Baptism (Lk 3, 21), before choosing the twelve (Lk 6, 12), before teaching how to pray (Lk 11, 1; Mt 6, 5); before the confession of Caesarea (Lk 9, 18); in the Transfiguration (Lk 9, 28-29), in Gethsemane (Mt 26, 36-44); on the Cross (Mt 27, 46; Lk 23, 46). He prays for his executioners (Lk 23, 34); for Peter (Lk 22, 32), for his disciples and for those who will follow him (Jn 17, 9-24). He also prays for himself (Mt 26, 39; Jn 17, 1-5; Heb 5, 7). He teaches to pray (Mt 6, 5), He manifests a permanent relationship with the Father (Mt 11, 25-27), sure that He never leaves him alone (Jn 8, 29), and always hears him (Jn 11, 22.42; Mt 26, 53). He has promised (Jn 14, 16) to continue to intercede in heaven (Rm 8, 34; Heb 7, 25; I Jn 2, 1).
6. Oratio: Psalm 33
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice.
Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,
let us acclaim his name together.
I seek Yahweh and he answers me,
frees me from all my fears.
Fix your gaze on Yahweh and your face will grow bright,
you will never hang your head in shame.
A pauper calls out and Yahweh hears,
saves him from all his troubles.
The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear him,
and rescues them.
Taste and see that Yahweh is good.
How blessed are those who take refuge in him.
Fear Yahweh, you his holy ones;
those who fear him lack for nothing.
Lord Jesus, sometimes we are full of enthusiasm and forget that You are the source of our joy: In the moments of sadness we do not seek you or we want your miraculous intervention. Now we know that you never abandon us, that we should not fear. Prayer is also our force. Increase our faith, we are ready to risk our life for your Kingdom.