Aug. 12, 2017

Walking the Walk: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matt. 14:28)

Readings: 1st- 1 Kgs. 19:9, 11-13; 2nd- Rom. 9: 1-5; Gospel- Matt. 14:22-33

How often are you overwhelmed by worry, fear, anxiety? How often have you lost your spiritual balance because you are anxious? How often have you focused on the storm than on the saving power of God? Jesus speaks to you today as he spoke to Peter, “Courage, it is I, do not be afraid”.

Let’s start with the prophet Elijah in the first reading. Elijah encounters God. The theophany or divine revelation is preceded by Elijah’s horrible experience with life. The wicked Jezebel, the wife of the King Ahab, is after Elijah, threatens to kill him. Jezebel is sad that Elijah overpowered the false prophets and had them massacred, so she vows to take Elijah’s life by the storms. Elijah is tormented, “was afraid and fled for his life” (1 Kgs.19: 3-4). It is in the face of this frustration that God appears to him, feeds him, and leads him to Mount Horeb, the mountain of the Lord, upon which the revelation takes place. Elijah is afraid, God calms him.

In the gospel, Jesus walks on the sea. The disciples see him and become terrified. They think he is a ghost. Jesus calms them down which warrants Peter to ask for confirmation, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water”. Jesus invites Peter to “walk the Walk”. Peter sets out on a strong, focused note, starts walking on the water towards Jesus. “But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened, and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14: 29-31).

It is important to take note of the steps that Peter takes in this encounter and his response to the storms. (1) He demands an invitation from Jesus. (2) He responds to Christ’s invitation, gets out of the boat towards Christ. (3) He notices how strong the wind is, gets distracted. (4) Peter becomes afraid and begins to sink. (5) Peter recognizes the need to call on Jesus, “Lord, save me”.

That’s about Peter. How about us? Peter is threatened by the effect of the storm. Elijah is threatened by Jezebel. Paul is full of sorrow and anguish, wishes he is accursed and cut off from Christ because of the negative attitude of his people. That means that fear is real in human existence, and continues to torment God’s people.

Fear is a great enemy of success. Fear is a popular weapon used by the devil to distract God’s people. Fear is a condition of feeling overwhelmed, of feeling defeated by the source of fear. Fear creates fantasies in our lives, produces mirages that seem real. Fear brings out the weak side of humanity, makes us vulnerable. One great definition I ever got of fear is to use the four letters: F= False. E= Expectations. A= Appearing. R= Real. Fear therefore, means that those imagined realities in your head can be false in real life. This is clear in the experience of the disciples, “It is a ghost, they said, and they cried out in fear” (Matt. 14: 27). They become terrified. They see ghost in place of Jesus. It is at that point that Jesus commands, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid”.

There can be several reasons to be afraid, so much crazy things going on around us- wars, conflicts, persecution, violence, crime, natural disasters, terrorism, economic uncertainty. There is unemployment, division, family feud, hatred, betrayal, disease, pain, disappointment, hunger and death. Parents fear for children’s future. We fear for our safety and security. We fear for our families and friends. We fear for our financial future and for economic stability. We fear for our retirement, and for old age. We fear for things seen and unseen. We get worried and worked up for the things that create fear in our lives. A lot of times, we lose sight of God and his purpose for us. We focus on the object of fear, and let it take the better part of us. Jesus speaks to us today, inspires us to concentrate on him. Jesus rebukes our little faith. He wants you to walk the Walk with him. He alone can calm the storm.

In order to overcome fear, we have to be ready to “walk the Walk” with Jesus. This is a demand of faith. Walking the Walk means boldly stepping up like Peter on the edgy and uncommon path of life. You walk the Walk when you walk with Jesus. You walk the Walk when you defy the odds, when you dare the situation of fear, when you believe in your power to conquer because of the presence of God in your life. You walk the Walk when you promise yourself that you will in the end be victorious. You walk the Walk when you see success and not failure. You walk the Walk when you pray to God and look to the future with optimism. You walk the Walk when you recognize the enormous spiritual benefits of going to the Mountain of the Lord, the table of the Blessed Eucharist. You walk the Walk when you keep your gaze on Jesus. He is the Walk and wants you to walk with Him.

Those in the boat exclaimed at Jesus, “Truly, you are the Son of God” (Matt. 14: 33). Jesus is truly the Son of God. Do you realize that, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)? Many Christians are suffering today because they have not realized that Jesus can do all things. They seem to walk alone. My dear friends, the moment you concentrate on the source of your fear, you begin to walk alone. You begin to sink. You begin to lose your balance. Concentrate on Jesus and his saving power. Shout out to him, “Lord, save me, help me, rescue me”. God says to you, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41: 10).

Let’s conclude with this song that says, “I have Jesus the Son of God. Why should I fear? Why should I worry?”