BEFORE WE SINK
It’s surprising the significance that the story of the storm on the lake of Galilee has taken on in these times of religious crisis. Matthew describes the situation in clear terms: Jesus’ disciples are alone, «far from solid land», in the middle of the insecurity of the sea; the boat is «tossed about by the waves», overcome by adverse forces, «headwinds», everything going against them; it’s «pitch black”, the darkness keeps them from seeing the horizon.
Thus are living quite a few believers at this moment. There’s no security or religious certainty; everything has become obscure and doubtful. Religion is subjected to all kinds of accusations and suspicions. There’s talk of Christianity as a «terminal religion» that belongs to the past, they say that we are entering a «post-Christian era» (E. Poulat). In some people the question arises: isn’t religion an unreal dream, an ingenious myth called on to disappear? This is the disciples’ cry when they make out Jesus in the midst of the storm: «It’s a ghost».
Jesus’ reaction is immediate: «Courage! It’s me! Don’t be afraid». Strengthened by these words, Peter makes Jesus an outrageous request: «Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you across the water». He doesn’t know if Jesus is a ghost or something real, but he wants to prove that he can walk toward him, walking not on solid ground, but on the water, no being supported by safe arguments, but in the weakness of faith.
Thus a believer lives out her attachment to Christ in moments of crisis and darkness. We don’t know if Christ is a ghost or something alive and real, raised by the Father for our salvation. We don’t have scientific arguments to prove it, but we know by experience that one can walk through life sustained by faith in him and in his word.
It’s not easy to live from this naked faith. The Gospel story tells us that Peter «notices the wind», «takes fright» and «begins to sink». It’s a well-known process: notice only the power of evil, let ourselves be paralyzed by fear, and sink into hopelessness.
Peter reacts, and before going completely under, cries out: «Lord, save me!». Faith is often a cry, a plea, a call to God: «Lord, save me!». Without knowing how or why, it’s possible at that moment to perceive Christ as a hand stretched out to sustain our faith and save us, saying just then: «You have so little faith, why did you doubt?».
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf