•I Kings 19: 9, 11-13 • Romans 9: 1-5 • Matthew 14: 22-33•
Weekly Scripture Readings: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Did Jesus actually walk on water? Matthew says he did. Perhaps it does not matter. Since
Matthew wrote his gospel, including this story, to address the circumstances and needs of his own community, focus on a so-called nature miracle can distract us from the author’s purpose.
As Jesus and his companions went back and forth across the Sea of Galilee, he surely must have used the difficult moments in their journeys to teach his disciples how to face the dangerous storms that were coming. The members of Matthew’s community were Jewish men and women convinced Jesus had been raised from the dead. For them he was “the Lord.” Within their synagogues this awakened hostility. Although they were still sincere, pious Jews, they were less and less welcome in the synagogues. Their situation seemed desperate. Matthew wants his community to know that when storms battered them and the Risen One was not in sight, he remains with them and among them. “Take courage. … Do not be afraid.”
In our text today it is night, a time of darkness, howling wind and enormous waves. That as the situation of Matthew’s community. In various ways the story of the storm on the Sea of Galilee is relevant to our own situation today. We find ourselves, both as a nation and as a Catholic community in a time of darkness, howling wind and enormous waves.
Since dropping “the bomb” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and firebombing Germany and Japan, we have become a militarized people engaged in unending wars just as Hitler’s propaganda stated we would. We, and our peers commonly affirm Christian doctrines while ignoring the Christ vision of life and humanity. It ought not surprise us that many now speak of Christianity as a terminal religion.
In addition, rapid social change propelled by new technology and amazing scientific information fills many of us with confusion. Perhaps you, like many folks are busy, absorbed in a variety of activities, most of which distract but fail to engage you in mystery, the Gracious Mystery we name God. Does it really matter who won the World Cup or the local youth athletic program?
When telling us Peter walked on water rather than firm ground, Matthew was showing what it means to believe. Faith is not the mere affirmation of theoretical truths or principles. Faith is trust; an attitude of absolute trust that the ultimate meaning of our life, the definitive criterion of love, and our ultimate future is expressed in Christ. Faith is a vision of life that embraces a unique concept of humanity and our ultimate destiny.
The first Christians, including Matthew’s community, neither considered nor spoke of “Christianity” as if it were a religion. Their religion was Judaism! In the Risen Christ they found a new, more meaningful vision of life. They discovered and embraced a new life filled with challenges.
Perhaps you, or maybe members of your family or some of your friends have felt overcome by darkness, howling winds and enormous waves. Perhaps you, or they, feel locked within your own self, or find yourself busy, engaged in many activities, living a life without purpose or goal. Perhaps you yearn to live life differently. What can you do? Where can you go? “Take courage. … Do not be afraid.” The Risen One is among us still and says to you, “come!”
It could be that you, or they have abandoned something you never understood. That is my story. I embraced Christianity with all the characteristics of “religion.” Eventually my reading, study and prayer have led me to a different and for me a far more meaningful understanding of Christ and church. I have no fear that Christianity is a terminal religion. Being Catholic/ Christian is a journey into Mystery, the Christ Mystery in whom we are shown what it is to be more fully human