Homily for the nineteenth Sunday of the year - Year A - Mt. 14:22-33
Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
" Then (after the multiplication of the loaves) Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.
" The boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, «It is a ghost!» And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, «Take heart, it is I; have no fear.» And Peter answered him, «Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.» He said, «Come.» So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, «Lord, save me.» Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, «O man of little faith, why did you doubt?» And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, «Truly you are the Son of God.» "
We are on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, in Galilee. An event will happen that is quite similar to one that took place a little earlier (cf. Mt. 8:23 et seq.): "And when Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, «Save, Lord; we are perishing.» And he said to them, «Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?» Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm." (Mt. 8:23-26)
In the episode in which Jesus sleeps in the boat, the Master is with his disciples, and yet he is absent, for he sleeps. Here, Jesus prays on the mountain, while his disciples are in the boat tossed by the waves: Jesus is near his disciples, in prayer, which allows him to rest in the Spirit of the Father and thus be close to his disciples; and yet, Jesus is on the mountain and thus is far from his disciples, who are on the lake, in the boat jostled by the winds!
While these two episodes are somewhat similar, they are nonetheless different in certain ways. First of all, there is an inversion: when Jesus sleeps in the boat, he is near his disciples in body, but far from them in spirit; here, Jesus is near his disciples in spirit, praying for them, but far from them in body, since he is on the mountain and not in the boat.
There is also another inversion. In the boat in which Jesus sleeps, it is his disciples who go to Jesus to wake him: "And they went and woke him." (Mt. 8:25). Here, it is Jesus who goes to meet with his disciples in order to encourage them: "Jesus came to them, walking on the sea... He spoke to them, saying, «Take heart, it is I; have no fear.» " (Mt. 14:25-27)
Our entire life here below closely resembles that boat of the disciples, shaken by the violent waves! Soon we will be there, before the Blessed Sacrament: Jesus is truly present, near us, and yet he does not say anything... For our spirit is so preoccupied by worries of all kinds that we do not hear his Word...
Sometimes we are deprived of the Holy Eucharist for a long time: I am thinking here of Christians who are isolated, whether through sickness that keeps them from getting to church, or through the lack of priests, who only rarely can come to them... And this sometimes troubles our soul, whereas we could think about making a spiritual communion and joining Jesus in Heaven...
" And Peter answered him, «Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.» He said, «Come.» So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, «Lord, save me.» Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, «O man of little faith, why did you doubt?» "
Peter walks on the water! A miracle that is out of the ordinary! Forgive me for the pleonasm... For a miracle is always out of the ordinary... Is this miracle greater than that of resurrecting the dead? I believe so. For if Peter had not done this, if Peter had not one day, for a few moments, walked on water to go to Jesus, then would Peter have believed that God, responding to his prayer, would resurrect the woman named Tabitha (cf. Acts 9:40)? Not even an entire life would be enough to understand the miracle of Peter walking on the water...
Let us think about what Peter says, under the inspiration of the grace of God: "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water!" Certainly, this is folly, the folly of God (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18)! For, in the present case, it is not solely a matter of physically going to Jesus, but it also involves spiritually going to He who is the only Savior of men! Now, only the Father can give man the grace to go to his Son Jesus: "No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (Jn. 6:65) Only the Father, and he to whom the Father speaks (cf. Mt. 16:17), can say to Christ: "Bid me come to you!"
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who never lets us out of her sight, watch over us each day of our life!