If not for yesterday’s feast day, we would have heard the Gospel story of the feeding of the multitude once again, St. Matthew’s version of the story. So the opening words of the Gospel today show us Jesus sending his disciples on ahead of him while he personally dismisses the great crowd of people who have followed him into the desert.
The Gospel story tells us that the vision of Jesus walking on the water and calming the story happened sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 AM, the fourth and last watch of the night. In other words, the apostles have been rowing against the storm all night long. They would have been incredibly tired as well as a little scared of what this storm could do to their little boat. It is in this context that Jesus comes to them and rescues them.
The story of Jesus calming the sea appears in some form or another in all of the synoptic Gospels. The way that the early Christian movement heard this story would have been highly influenced by the “storms” that are raging in their lives. They are being expelled from the synagogues because of their faith in Jesus. Rome is beginning to mount its forces to persecute the followers of Jesus. Who wouldn’t be frightened in such circumstances? So the story of Jesus coming to them over the waves and rescuing them from the possibility of their boat sinking would have been a reminder that no matter what the future held for them, God has promised to be with them. We hear the oft-repeated message, “Be not afraid.”
Fear is a common human reaction to dangerous circumstances. Who of us has not experienced it at some time or another? Like any human emotion, it is next to impossible to control it. So the exclamation from Jesus, “Oh you of little faith,” should not be seen as an accusation. Rather, it is God reminding us once again that God is with us in all that happens in our lives. Just as God did not abandon Jesus when he was crucified, God will not abandon us in our hour of need.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator