Earlier this week I was, in a very personal context, challenged by what we read in Matthew 14: 25-31. In this story, Jesus walks on water towards the boat in which his disciples were traveling. It was just before dawn – the beginning of a new day, still dark everywhere around, but with the familiar feeling of the “dawn of a new day”. And, yes, the boat had been “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it” (Mtt. 14: 24).
That is when Jesus appears, walking on the water, in the dawn of a new day. Did the disciples think of the dawn of a new day? Not, from the Gospel account.
First, they thought they were seeing a ghost – an apparition; not a real person.
I have been too preoccupied with storms and darkness that I have failed to recognize Jesus’ appearance in the middle of it all. One of the darkest experiences I have endured for the past five years is the politicization of immigration in the U.S. Millions and millions of people (we are told, a whopping 11 million) are caught up, in one way or another, in a quagmire of immigration dysfunction. Individuals, families, children, refugees, scholars and professionals, people of all walks of life, are paralyzed while politicians exploit their plight for political maneuvering.
Yet, Jesus is out there even as I, and millions, pray for action. All these five years I have probably thought there is only a ghost of Jesus, not his real self.
In this Gospel story, Peter attempts to do what Jesus bids him. “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water”, he asks. Who has not prayed that prayer, “Lord, show me the way and I will follow it”? I have prayed it so many times in these five years.
Jesus answers, as he answered Peter: “Come! Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”.
There lies my other problem. Fear! Sometimes it is fear of the unknown – what lies ahead in the dawn of the day – and other times it is just the enormity of the darkness and strong winds – trying to figure out the darkness, how powerful it is and how impossible to overcome.
Like Peter, I need to take that first step onto the water. Unlike Peter, I need not calculate the strength of the waves and the wind. I just need to know Jesus has responded: “Come! Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”.
Because at the end of the day, we need to face Jesus’ challenge: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Why do I let fear factor in my destiny? Why do you?