First Reading: 1Kgs 19:9a. 11-13a; Psalm: 85. R. v. 7; Second Reading: Rm 9:1-5; Gospel: Mt 14:22-33
DARE TO BELIEVE
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Some years ago, it was reported that a pastor got drowned in the West Coast of Africa in his attempt to re-enact Jesus’ miracle of walking on the sea. According to the story, the pastor, 35 years of age assured his congregation that he was capable of replicating the biblical miracle of Jesus as they stood ashore before a beach in Libreville, Gabon. His congregation watched as their pastor stepped into the water one step at a time till he was completely submerged. Sadly, he drowned before his congregation could rescue him.
There is no pejorative undertone intended in the choice of this story as a prelude to our reflection this morning. This is precisely why the name of the said pastor was undisclosed to dispel any contemptuous feeling. My point however as to the choice of this story is that the biblical miracle of the gospel of today is not so much about Jesus walking on the sea as it is about the emphasis of daring to believe that we can surmount the day-to-day challenges of life that unnerves us.
It is important to take into account the passage preceding the gospel of this morning so as to establish a better footing to understanding the miracle of walking on the sea. According to today’s gospel, as the disciples embarked on their voyage to the other side of the sea; Jesus dismissed the crowd of five thousand that was fed to their satisfaction. This is the immediate passage preceding the gospel of today. Recall that in the feeding of the five thousand the disciples had only five loaves of bread and two fish which they complained were insufficient to feed so great a crowd. But Jesus encouraged them to bring their little gift to him. The miracle of the multiplication of loaves that happened thereafter was enough message to the disciples that can they surmount the humongous challenges of life if they dared to believe.
Moving on from there, Jesus went to the mountain to pray while his disciples sailed to the other side. Around three o’clock in the wee hours of the morning, Jesus came towards his disciples walking on the sea as their boat was disturbed by the sea current. Expectedly, fear was the immediate reaction of the disciples who at that dark hour of the morning could scarcely notice Jesus. Added to that, it was stormy and only eerie creatures were known to do extraordinary things like walking on the sea at that dark hour which was why they screamed that it was a ghost. But Jesus said to them; “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
The assurance of Jesus was not enough to dissipate their fear. Now, Peter’s sudden reaction is one of the crucial parts in this whole story. When Jesus invited Peter to come to him walking on the sea; Peter took what probably was the craziest risk of his life for the following reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t seem that Peter was sure that it was Jesus who was walking on the sea which explains why he said; “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Secondly, Peter was not completely sure he would succeed in what he sets out to do. Thirdly, stepping out of the safety of the boat into the solvent water was a courageous thing to do. And finally, if I were Peter, I would probably ask myself why I should be the one who would dare to try in the company of the other disciples.
But against all these odds Peter dared to believe. Peter understood from the miracle of the multiplication of loaves that if he dared to believe, he would prevail over the humongous challenges of life even when present circumstances are against all possibilities. As Peter began to walk on the sea, his faith grew and he saw it was truly the Lord. And when the wind rattled his little faith that he began to sink, he beckoned on the Lord to help him. And Jesus reached out his hand and pulled him up. What the Lord asks of us is to dare to believe and he would definitely come to our rescue when we reach the extent our wee faith could go.
Dare to believe when the present gets tough and the future seems bleak that we felt left hanging on the tiny threads of hope. Dare to believe when we hear from the doctors that our loved one has 50/50 chance of surviving a very delicate operation that sends a chill down our spine. Dare to believe. The marriage we’ve built for years could be on the verge of crumbling due to some marital misunderstanding; perhaps it is time we dare to believe. Dare to believe when almost everyone is against our dreams and ambitions that we felt like giving up and unenthusiastic to try anything new. Dare to believe. Dare to believe when our spouse, son or daughter is not living up to expectation that we felt so peeved and frustrated. Dare to believe because though sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Ps 30:5).
But it is not enough to dare to believe. We need to step out of the safety of the boat and come to Jesus amidst our crises. We need to approach Jesus even with our little fears and doubt because faith is not always the complete absence of doubt. In that vulnerable moment, we can pray like the man in the scriptures: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24). This little effort to dare to believe when the odds are against us can bring great results.
But here is another part we may hate to hear. When we dare to believe and step out of the boat, things may not turn out successful at some point. Our faith may falter along the line. Our fears might begin to happen. Things could get rougher. Peter began to sink. The condition of our sick loved one may get worse. Your spouse could suddenly serve you a divorce letter. Our realisable dreams and ambitions may suddenly hit the wall. And all of a sudden it feels like the whole world has hung us out to dry. This could be our most vulnerable moment. But then again, we need to quickly look up to see the outstretched arm of Jesus reaching out to pull us up. Jesus would reach out to help us from where our wee faith cannot take us any further. No matter how bad things turn out, the Lord is always there as a source of strength.
Though the Lord may not be in the wind, in the earthquake, and in the fire. Though the crises of life may be so enormous and overwhelming that we become too woozy to see the outstretched arm of God. But if we could listen to the inner whispers of our soul; we could hear that reassuring still small voice of God: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, grant us the courage to dare to believe and to step out of the boat. When the crises of life rattle our faith, may we not be blind to see your saving hand. Amen.