Yesterday’s Gospel brought us St. John’s version of the feeding of the multitude. This particular sign in St. John’s Gospel introduces the Discourse on the Bread of Life, a long passage that has become the foundation of our Eucharistic theology. Today we hear St. John’s version of the calming of the sea, a story that appears in all four of the Gospels and which functions, in St. John’s Gospel, as a short interlude before Jesus launches into a very intense and important discourse.
Each of the evangelists basically tells the same story. The apostles are crossing the Sea of Galilee when a storm suddenly erupts and threatens to swamp and sink the boat. While some evangelists portray Jesus as sleeping in the stern of the boat, others show Jesus walking on the water and getting into the boat with the apostles. One particular difference in St. John’s Gospel is that it seems that the apostles arrive at their destination immediately after Jesus enters the boat.
The early Christian community was understandably upset and fearful when Jesus was crucified and died. His resurrection adds an added dose of fear to the experience. At first, they are unsure whether they are seeing a ghost. However, Jesus assures them that he has risen, shows them his wounds, and commissions them to carry the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to the entire world. At the time that St. John’s Gospel is written, the Church is beginning to experience the persecutions that would result in the martyrdom of many of the first Christians. The story of the calming of the sea is meant as a reminder to these early Christians that as long as Jesus is in the boat with them, they have nothing to fear. St. John emphasizes this point by adding the detail of arriving at their destination once Jesus climbs into the boat.
You and I don’t spend a great deal of time in a boat. However, we are all on a journey and are all headed for a final destination. Today’s Gospel reminds us that as long as we travel with Jesus, we have nothing to fear. Heaven is well within our reach.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.., Administrator