This passage is not a mere retelling of an incident that happened 2,000 years ago. It’s a Scripture that continues to have meaning and relevance for us today. In fact, our lives are repetitions of this Gospel incident.
The Church Fathers and Church Mothers have consistently taught that the boat with the disciples is a symbol of both the Church and each individual Christian. We are all on a journey. We are still at sea in the process of crossing to the other side. There are times when our fragile boat is “battered” by the waves of trials and difficulties. Hardship and obstacles can become raging winds that are “against us”. Like the disciples, we can feel powerless, helpless and fearful.
Today’s Gospel presents 3 key messages about the hostile storms of everyday life. The 1st message is that, when afflictions come, God does not turn away from us. He does not abandon us. Jesus will walk toward us and assist us in times of danger. From the eye of the storm that is upon us, Jesus will say, “Take heart it is I; do not be afraid”. The sentence, “Do not be afraid”, appears 365 times in the Bible. It is a daily reminder from God to be fearless. Jesus is the guide and protector of his people. God is in our corner. He is close to us. And this is our hope!
The 2nd message of today’s Gospel is that, when afflictions and sufferings overwhelm us, the biggest mistake we can make is to deal with them on on our own. When we begin to “sink” in face of the challenges of life (health issues, financial issues, relationship issues, mental health issues, spiritual matters, addictions, etc.), we ought to go to God. At these moments in our lives, we need to make the decision to put everything in his hands and to entrust him with all that we have and with all that we are. As was the case with Peter, whenever we are weak and vulnerable, Jesus will reach out his hand to give us his strength in every difficulty.
The 3rd message is the most important one. It is found in the last sentence of the Gospel passage: “And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God’”. Jesus is not a superhero with magical powers; he is the Son of God.
When Jesus “got into the boat, the wind ceased.” As a divine person, he is more powerful than any force in nature. The sea is vast, but God is infinitely greater. God is in command even when a violent storm breaks out. God is always in charge. We should never doubt this reality in spite of appearances to the contrary. For this reason, there is never any need for fear or anxiety.
When Jesus gets into our boat, he can conquer any turbulent wave or wind in our lives. In our tumultuous world, Jesus is the source of peace.
Our responsibility is to trust His presence, power and grace. Faith is more than a creed recited on a Sunday morning. The basis of our faith is belief in a person. The invitation of this Gospel is to remain firm, constant and unwavering in our belief, trust and confidence in the person of Jesus Christ when we are in trouble. Bishop Robert Barron puts it this way: “Relying on our own power, we can do nothing. But relying on Christ we can do anything”. We are encouraged this morning to let go of the illusion that we control our lives.
Each one of us ought to ask this question: “Do I really believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is with me, that he is present here and now, and that my life is under his direction?” But think about it. Isn’t this what happens each time we receive Holy Communion? Jesus, the Son of God, is literally with us; Jesus, the Son of God, is physically present at that moment, and Jesus, the Son of God, truly enters our life with his outstretched hand.
As our Eucharist continues, let us ask God to deepen within us the belief that he is omnipresent (as the Catechism teaches). God’s omnipresence means that he is present and at work everywhere and in everyone. He governs the universe as well as our individual lives with purpose and fidelity.
Let this truth give us the courage to go ahead without being disheartened by anything. Let this good news give us hope as we struggle to cope with the “ups and downs” of our lives during this pandemic.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
August 9, 2020