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The walking on the water

Gospel Reading: Mt 14:22-36
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side of the sea, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone.

Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.

On the surface, this is a story about the disciples’ traveling across the Sea of Galilee in rough water and Jesus’ ability to walk on the sea. In a deeper sense, however, Matthew (like Mark before him) has shaped this story into a parable about the Church and a disclosure about the nature of Jesus. First, we get a symbolic picture of the Church – the disciples in a boat on the unpredictable sea. Jesus, we are told, makes the disciples “get into the boat and go ahead to the other side” (v 22). The point here is not that Jesus coerces the disciples into the boat (that is, the Church) but, rather, their being in the boat at all is because of a command of Jesus. The Church is called by God and sent to a dangerous sea. As Jesus strides over the waves, he speaks in a voice like that of God in the Old Testament.

His words “It is I” (literally, “I AM”) echo the words spoken by God out of the burning bush (cf Ex 3:14). Peter asks if he can come to Jesus and is enabled. But then, he falters, so he begins to sink. Jesus saves Peter from the waves.

The lesson is: even when the disciples falter, Jesus continues to save.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.