19th  SUNDAY A

Today’s gospel story of Jesus walking on the waters makes us ask if it really happened, word for word, as we find it in Matthew’s Gospel? Our best theologians and scripture commentators remind us that it’s good to be open to metaphor, poetry and analogy as we read the gospel stories of Jesus’ miracles. As kids in school we were taught to take the gospel as very literally true. As grown-ups now and better educated we see the walking on water story as a reflection on human life with its highs and lows – its family problems and estrangement of friends and colleagues, its loss of employment and the family home. The gospels also include a strong element of the joys of life – celebrations, vacations and the times when life flows smoothly along.

The gospel begins today with Jesus spending the night in prayer on a mountain. We know nothing of his posture, whether kneeling, standing or sitting, or what was going through his mind. We are in prayer when we live in the present moment – fully aware of ourselves in relations to God, to others and to the whole of nature. I like to think of Jesus in prayer being aware of who he really is – his heavenly father’s son, his actions in healing and feeding the multitude, and his need to refresh his drooping spirits. Prayer also connects us to the world and to people, and Jesus must have been aware that night of the storm on the lake and his disciples’ struggle. We know they were in troubled waters and in a panic when they saw him walking on the water and coming towards them through the storm. They shrieked in fear.

This reminds me of life’s messy problems and how so often we allow our fears to overtake us, often losing our sense of perspective and lashing out rather than thinking things through. In the absence of a magic wand to make our upset go away we have to face the storm full on. As believers we know that Christ risen and victorious is there with us, encouraging us to face life’s uncertainties with hope for healing and reconciliation. We feel our weakness when trouble strikes, and Peter’s trying to walk on the heaving waters can be a metaphor for trying to bypass facing up to problems.

In his confusion and fright Peter reached out to Jesus, and Jesus reached out to him with words of comfort and assurance to soothe and quieten his fears. We are in a two-way relationship with Christ: we reach out to him and he to us through our relationship with others. When someone is in trouble we want to extend a helping hand and they to us if they know we are sinking and in need of help. The story ends with them all together with Jesus and in the boat. Faith flourishes when the community of believers together acknowledges and celebrates the presence of Christ.  Such confession is the source and summit of who we are: “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Fr. QQ – 08/10/2023



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