It is customary for tourists to the Holy Land to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, the sea on which Jesus walked in today’s gospel. A certain tourist from our country US wanted such a ride and was told by the boatman that the fare was $50. “Fifty dollars,” exclaimed the tourist, “No wonder Jesus walked!
Today’s Gospel follows last Sunday’s where Jesus multiplied loaves and fish to feed a multitude. By multiplying the loaves and walking on the sea today, Jesus shows that He is lord and master of the elements, all forces—natural and supernatural. But watch how the Gospel put it: “After the miracle of the loaves, He made His disciples get into a boat and precede Him to the other side.” Then He goes to the mountain to pray. He sends them (sends us) on our journey and retreats to pray for them (for us).
The Boat in the Sea is one of the earliest Christian symbols for the Church in her journey through the world. Tossed about and pounded from all sides by worldly and spiritual forces hostile to the kingdom, the Church eagerly awaits the arrival of her Lord to calm the waves and restore peace. The Lord does the unthinkable: He comes in a form and manner in which He is mistaken for the enemy. Even well-meaning Christians cry out in fear: “It’s a ghost.” Don’t we see the Church’s solutions to the sea of problems in the world easily mistaken and provoking outcry by the world. For example, when the Church urges discipline, self-control against promiscuity, she is tagged an enemy of women and AIDS victims. But if we listen carefully, we shall hear through the storms the soft, gentle whisper of the Lord amidst the wind saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” If we believe His word putting our trust in Him, the storms will subside and the crisis will be resolved. Would not the one who rode on the waves not be able to resolve our problems? Elijah heard Him in the still gentle wind; we’ll hear him when there’s peace and quiet in our soul, not amidst the noise and clamor of the world.
As the Church, like Peter’s boat, sails through the stormy seas of our time, we need to keep our gaze focused on Jesus to bring us peace. Peter’s request to walk on water with Him is an act of faith that the Church makes to her Lord—to do the impossible or improbable and walk on these waves with Him. But we do need to keep our gaze centered on Him, for if He says to us “Come,” He’ll give us the power to arrive. Peter took the command and walked on the water. If we center our gaze on Him, we shall walk on our problems. Notice that while Peter kept his eyes upon the Lord, upon His word and power, he walked on the water well enough; but as soon as he succumbed to fear and took his gaze off Him focusing rather on the waves and dangers surrounding him, he began to sink; for “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). May the Lord grant us increase in faith to fix our gaze constantly on Him!