The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. (14:22-34)
In the past it may have been very difficult for us to sympathize with the story of the disciples sitting in their boat during the storm. We had for a long time, been under the impression that we were fully in charge, fully in control of our lives, our situations, everything. A few months ago that illusion was dispelled for many of us. We began to realize that there was really not too much in our lives that was within our control. Life has been in a constant state of flux and it has been rough on many. We really can sympathize with the plight of the disciples who are in a storm tossed sea. Each of us is battered by the waves and the winds of current events. Either way we have felt like we are at the mercy of these forces that are swirling around us and everything has been turned upside down. Businesses have closed, schools have changed their plans, our lives have been transformed in many ways. On top of that all, many are also afraid of the potential for infection and severe illness. It is enough to make one feel like their ship is going to sink and all will be lost. Enter the Lord Jesus Christ.
A powerful feature of this gospel reading is that the Lord does not calm the storms and then make His appearance. No! That would not be the gospel, but rather a sort of fantasy. Christ appear to the disciples in the midst of the storm! He goes even further than that. Our Lord appears in the storm in the most inexplicable and wondrous way that we can possibly imagine. After all, it might be noteworthy that He appeared to them in the storm, but He appears to them, calmly walking on the water. That is no small feat. If you have ever tried it you will find that it is utterly impossible, humanly speaking. Our Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t simply defy the laws of physics and nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the writer and creator of these laws. He does not submit to them, rather they submit to Him, to His lordship, to His divinity. It is not astounding that the Lord Jesus Christ should walk upon the waves of the sea because it was He who created the waves and the sea and all that is contained therein.
Yet the point remains. The Lord did not calm the storm and then appear, He appeared in the very middle of the storm. In our own lives it is easy to wish for better times when things begin to appear difficult. It is easy to daydream or reminisce. Sometimes we even make excuses for the fact that we are not serious about our prayer life and our relationship with God. We say that things are too hectic, that we are too tired, that we can’t focus. Yet we see in this reading that Christ doesn’t magically change the situation. That is not the point. The real lesson is that Christ is already present in the midst of our storms and challenges and the difficulties of our lives. What a comforting thought! The disciples however were not comforted by this thought. They were completely mortified at the sight of the Lord Jesus Christ walking towards them upon the water. It was completely outside of their understanding of the Lord’s identity. In their minds they had limited Jesus Christ and His ability to help them in their time of need. Perhaps we are doing similarly in our own ways. Have we limited the work of God in our lives during the present difficulties? Have we allowed the present difficulties to magnify and highlight the ways that God is powerfully present or have we allowed the difficulties to obscure our vision of God?
To all of our fears and concerns in the midst of the storms of life our Lord replies “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” We should be so comforted by these words. If we only took them seriously. If we only believed. So powerful and comforting was this word from the Lord that it gave Peter renewed courage and strength and he became bold. He cried out to Christ, “Lord. If it is you, allow me to come to you on the water.” This is how listening to Christ and focusing on Christ changes our whole life and even our personality. Peter was filled with peace at that moment and he asks that he might join the Lord and partake of this miracle of walking upon the waters in the midst of the storm. It is a beautiful symbol and reminder of the inheritance we have in Christ. Everything that He has, He desires to share with us. He replied to Peter “Come.”
Our life of prayer is encapsulated in this story. What is our response to the craziness of the world and all of the swirling issues of the day? Do we ask the Lord to allow us to come to Him and to know Him in the midst of our trials? Do we trust Him to be there for us when things are difficult? Peter caught sight of Christ and heard His voice and trusted Him. Let us also hear His voice through the reading of the Holy Scriptures and New Testament on a daily basis. Meditate on His words and allow these words to fill us with peace and to energize us. He will renew our strength not through magic or wishful thinking, but through His word. Hearing this word give us the strength to pursue Him with zeal and courage. Listen to this verse,
“Your words have upheld him who was stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees.” Job 4:4
These are not just words but promises for each of us as His beloved children. He loves you and wants the best for you and your families and your lives.”
St. Seraphim of Sarov had this to say about the holy writings,“One should nourish the soul with the word of God: for the word of God, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, is angelic bread, by which are nourished souls who hunger for God. Most of all, one should occupy oneself with reading the New Testament and the Psalter…”
Our hunger for God is most powerful in the midst of the storms, although we don’t always realize that. Now is not the time to doubt Him or to turn to false comforts, false security and false gods. It is the time to reach out to Him like Peter, to ask Him if we can come to Him. He will never ever deny us, but will continually reach out to us and say “Come.” And even if we feel that all is lost and we are about to drown, we can cry out “Lord, save me!” Then we will know that Christ is present even in the midst of the storms of our life.
He is present and what’s more, He is able to make us to stand with Him and to find true and lasting peace regardless of the circumstances that surround us. May the Lord strengthen our faith and help us to focus not on the waves and the wind but on the One who alone can calm the storms of life, to Christ alone is due all glory and honor together with His Father and the Holy Spirit AMEN.