Walking on water is a phrase we often associate with an arrogant, overly confident person. You know the kind. They can be quite annoying.
However, it didn’t always mean that. Some two thousand years ago, it referred to Jesus’ miraculous feat of walking on the Sea of Galilee in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John. Jesus defied the laws of nature and appeared walking on the surface of the sea of Galilee in the midst of a frightening storm.
It seemed to be Jesus’ way of reassuring his apostles who faced fears without Jesus in their boat.
This past week at his weekly public audience Pope Francis opened my eyes to things I had never thought of.
The question is: Why did he want to walk on the waters?
The text even says he “made them” (the apostles, cf. v. 22) go out on their own.
In the time of Jesus
Particularly when storms made them turbulent, these abysses were symbols of chaos and recalled the darkness of the underworld.
Now, the disciples found themselves in the middle of the sea when it was dark. They are afraid of sinking, of being sucked in by evil.
Pope Francis suggests this is the message Jesus gives us
By walking on the waters, He wants to say, “Do not be afraid. I put your enemies under my feet” – a beautiful message – I put your enemies under my feet – not people! – not that type of enemy, but death, sin, the devil – these are the enemies of the people, our enemies. And Jesus tramples on these enemies for us.
Lessons we can learn today
What should we do when we face the fear of the open sea, when we see only darkness and we feel we are going under?
What do the disciples do? They call on and welcome Jesus. At the worst moments, in the darkest of storms, call on Jesus and welcome Jesus.
The disciples call on Jesus: Peter walks a little on the waters toward Jesus, but then gets frightened. He sinks and then cries out: “Lord, save me!” (v. 30).
Invoke Jesus, call on Jesus. This prayer is beautiful. It expresses the certainty that the Lord can save us… I invite you to repeat it now all together. Three times together: Lord, save me! Lord, save me! Lord, save me!
And then the disciples welcome, first they call on, then they welcome Jesus into the boat. The text says that as soon as he got into the boat, “the wind ceased” (v. 32).
Our stormy headwinds
The Lord knows that the boat of our life, as well as the boat of the Church, is threatened by headwinds.
He does not spare us the hard work of sailing; rather – the Gospel emphasizes – he pushes his disciples to depart.
He invites us to face difficulties so they too might become salvific places, so Jesus can conquer them, so they become opportunities to meet him.
In fact, in our moments of darkness, he comes to meet us, asking to be welcomed like that night on the lake.
How do I react when I am afraid, in difficulties?
Do I go ahead alone, with my own strength, or do I call on the Lord with trust?
Do I believe that Christ is stronger than the adversarial waves and winds?
Do I make room for him in the boat of my life? Do I hand the helm over to Jesus?
PS See the related recent post “What are you afraid of?”
Click below for an early audio version of this Vincentan Mindwalk