19th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
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We encounter God in so many different ways. In the first reading, Elijah encountered God not in the hurricane, earthquake nor fire but through a gentle breeze. Jesus would always encounter his Father on the mountain during his prayer. The disciples encountered Jesus walking on the sea and they thought he was a ghost. Peter encountered Jesus in the middle of the storm.
Typical of a very impulsive Peter, he challenged Jesus to bid him to come across the water. When Jesus said “Come,” Peter jumped out of the boat and started to walk across the water. How did Peter do it? It could have been that Peter was looking at Jesus so he started walking towards Jesus across the water. But when Peter noticed the strong winds, he took fright and started to sink. In desperation, he cried for help “Lord, save me!” Jesus put out his hand at once and held him.
The Archimedes Principle states “Any object, wholly or partially immersed in a fluid, is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object”. Because of this principle, we understand that if the density of the object is greater than that of the fluid, the object will sink. This is the reason why under normal circumstances, our tendency is to sink in the water. By showing that Jesus walked on the water is not only a defiance of the law of nature. The evangelist wants to show to his readers that Jesus is the Lord of Nature. The drama of Peter added more flavor and color to make the story more interesting and appealing to the readers.
Jesus manifests himself to us in various and very creative ways and most often incognito. Because we do not recognize him, we miss a lot of opportunities of encounter. As Fulton Sheen once said “Divinity is found in the least expected places.” Because of the strong wind and waves, the apostles did not have a clear vision of Jesus so they thought he was a ghost. Mary Magdalene did not recognize the Risen Christ because of the tears in her eyes and she thought he was the gardener. Just like the apostles, our visions are also impaired by the many fears that engulf us so we do not recognize Jesus, too.
In the many storms of our lives sometimes we think that God has abandoned us. In the middle of the storm, the most comforting words of Jesus are: “It is I, do not be afraid.”
Peter represents us so the story becomes our own story. There is no doubt, we have faith and as long as our gaze is fixed on Jesus, we can brave the storms of our lives. But once we are besieged by our fears, our focus is turned to the strong wind and waves. Just like Peter we begin to sink. And unless we humble ourselves and cry for help from God, the weight of our unbelief will pull us down to the abyss of emptiness. Peter who was a master fisherman cannot save himself from drowning; in all our self-sufficiencies, there comes a time when we have to cry for help because we cannot save ourselves.
What do the storms bring us? They bring out our vulnerability hence we come face to face with our fears and inadequacies. They also bring out the best in us because in the eyes of every storm we know that God is there loving and re-creating us. We just have to believe!