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Courage! It is I!

On the Gospel of Matthew 14:22-33

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We can readily picture the scene: the disciples wild-eyed and dishevelled in the midst of the storm, going pale with fright at the sight of Jesus walking on the water towards the boat. We might like to simply view it as another case of the disciples getting it all wrong, while fondly imagining that if we had been in their position we would have acted so differently!

Yet perhaps there is something in the reaction of the disciples that hits a raw nerve in us – something that we recognise about our own relationship with the Lord.

 ‘It is a ghost’, they cried out when Christ was moving towards them. Do we sometimes allow ourselves to drift away so much that we no longer know Christ as he is, and in fact no longer recognise him? Our boat may be our lives, our work, our relationships, the storms may be worries over family or money or over problems and disputes that we are going through. And we get totally caught up in these things, so that they dictate our lives and fix our horizons earthly bound.

And then Jesus comes into the picture, walking towards us in his calm, gracious manner – and he disturbs us! We have been so immersed in the world that we allowed some distance to come between us and him. Ever so subtly we devised ways of living that meant he was shut out and we did not have to listen to the voice of our conscience. But now we have failed in our crisis management and the storms are breaking into the boat, and turning to the Lord we cry for help.

Yet it is now hard to recognise him as he is – our faith has been allowed to grow cold, and our loving trust in his care has left us – and we may say ‘It is a ghost’. When Jesus breaks into our lives it is often not in the way we had anticipated, or as the kind of Lord we like to imagine. He will always be one who ‘comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable’. But he always holds on for us until we are ready to trust in him, he always says to us in these moments ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’

We often end up like Peter in this passage: half trusting and half afraid of ‘the force of the wind’, and the Lord has to take us by the hand and bundle us to safety. But I believe that it’s making the first step that means everything – he knows the weak stuff of which we are made, yet he keeps looking out for the first movement of trust and the first true recognition of his presence. And then the dawning realization comes over us – the Lord was in command the whole time.

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