Sunday, August 13, 2017

walking on water

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

Today's Gospel reading is the account of our Lord's walking on water. It is a dramatic display of his divine power and has become justly famous, so much so that the phrase 'to walk on water' is widely used in popular culture – so that, for example, a person who has done something seemingly impossible might well say 'and for my next trick I will walk on water' or a person who thinks he is above others and doesn't think the usual limits apply to him might be disparagingly described as 'thinking he can walk on water.'

Read carefully, the account in fact details three miracles. First our Lord walks on water; next he permits St Peter to join him on the surface of the lake and walk on water also; and finally, he calms the storm that is afflicting those in the boat. And each teaches us something important about Christian life.

Looking at the first: initially when the disciples see Christ coming towards them, they are terrified. There they are, in a boat, in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, with a storm raging all around them. And suddenly they see someone walking towards them. That they should react with fear, thinking it is some kind of apparition, is not surprising. But Jesus tells them not to be afraid. And the fear leaves them.

We also have much to be afraid of. We live in a world that surrounds us with threats, both physical and spiritual. But we have been washed in the waters of Baptism and made part of his Body, the Church; we are fed on the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist; and we have the Sacred Scriptures and the Holy Traditions of his Church to guide us. Christ is with us also; and therefore we need not be afraid, whatever threatens.

It is in response to this first display of divine power that the second follows. St Peter sees our Lord on the water and asks him, if it is he, to command him to come to him. Our Lord does; and St Peter obeys. It is important for us to note here that the apostle does not attempt to do this in his own strength; he does not see Jesus walking on the lake and say to himself 'well, if he can do it, then so can I!' No, he seeks to do so in the power of our Lord; more, he asks him to command him to do so. And when, because of the howling wind around him he becomes frightened and begins to sink, his immediate response to to call out to our Lord, who saves him.

We as Christians often face great difficulties. Sometimes they seem impossible to overcome. But here we see St Peter, rather than try to avoid what seems impossible, instead actively seeking it out … and remembering that it is by God's power that he prevails; even when he doubts he remembers this. And therefore rather that giving up, he prays to God for further help. And God grants him that help.

Our Lord and St Peter then join the others in the boat. And the wind at once ceases. The storm is over. And the response of the disciples to this final miracle is equally immediate. They worship him, saying that he is truly the Son of God – the first time in the Gospels that he is recognised as such.

Many Church Fathers regard the tempestuous sea as representing the world; and the boat, once Christ has entered in, as being his Church. Thus it is the only place where we may truly find safety; and therefore we as Christians must be careful never to separate ourselves from it. Christ did not found his Church idly; it is a vital part of his plan for the salvation of all. His Church is the people of God; and a person who deliberately sets themselves apart is not part of a people. His Church is the only place where we may be in fellowship with those other people who are also members of the body of Christ. And his Church is the only place where we may partake in the Sacraments that sustain us during our earthly pilgrimage that is intended to lead us to our heavenly home. In our Gospel reading it is in the boat that the disciples worship Jesus; and if we are also to worship him rightly we must also do so from within that boat, that ark of Salvation, which is his Church.


And as I finish, a final thought. There is an element of fear in each of these three miracles: the fear of the disciples when they see Christ approaching; St Peter's fear that causes him to sink; and the fear all in the boat have of the storm that threatens them. Christ takes away the fear in all three instances; and he can take away the fears that surround us and threaten us, not just our bodies but our very souls, if only we will trust in him – something that we must all pray for: in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

No comments:

Post a Comment