Grace: To know Jesus, who calms our storms and invites us to collaborate on his work, that others may know that he is our shepherd.
Text for Prayer: Matthew 14:22-33
Reflection: One of my favourite films is P. T. Anderson’s Magnolia. In this film, there is a scene where it rains frogs. It is a powerful and striking scene. Most people after watching the film wonder the significance of the amphibian downpour. The scene grabs their attention and, as they focus on it, they missed the effect it had on the characters in the film. The miracle of Jesus walking on water grabs our attention and we need to examine it carefully. In the process, we might miss the significance and effect this powerful moment had on the disciples.
In his account of the story, John tells us that “A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough” (Jn 6:18). Mark and Matthew both comment that the wind was against the boat. In all three accounts, there is a sense that the boat was in rough water. In Mark and Matthew, the wind stopped. In John, even though there is no mention of the wind stopping, once Jesus was in the boat with the disciples, they “arrived at the land to which they were going” (Jn 6:21). Jesus came to their aid. In some ways, this story is similar to Jesus’ stilling of the storm (Mk 4:35-41). Yet, there is something particular to this narrative. In it, (Mk 6:47-52; Mt 14:24-33; Jn 6:16-21) the Evangelists stressed a physical and a spiritual reality within the context of what Jesus tells the disciples when he meets them.
In terms of the physical reality, this story indicates that Jesus is the Son of God who walked on water and calmed the storming wind. He has power over nature. The disciples recognized this, and were astonished and worshipped him. The narrative also points to the spiritual significance this account had for the disciples, and later on it for the Church and for all of us. St. Augustine of Hippo invites us to reflect on this story in this way: “Let us think of the ship as the Church and the faithful soul. The sea is this world. The wind and the waves are persecutions and temptations. When the wind arises, the ship is tossed: but because Christ is there, it cannot sink.”
The author of The Confessions draws us into a reflection of the strong winds that at times affect our Church and our souls. In the midst of great scandals or persecution against the Church, or when we give into temptations or our problems seem too big, we seem overwhelmed by what is happening around us and may begin to wonder where Jesus is in the midst of all of it. And then the unthinkable happens. We recognize Jesus in the midst of the storm, when the winds might be picking up. At first, we might doubt that it is Jesus who comes to our aid. As we struggle with the winds and with our doubts, Jesus’ loving and compelling call draws us close to his Sacred Heart: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27).
One thing is certain, Jesus invites us to take heart, to take courage. He calls us to leave our fears and doubts behind. He is our shepherd, there is nothing we shall want (Ps 23). He will lead us beside still waters and will restore our Church and our souls. Even when I walk in the darkest valley, when I find myself in the midst of a storm, I shall not fear; for he is with me. He is by my side. He gives me courage.
To me, when Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I”, he is also inviting us to take his heart – to get to know him. He is calling us into a deeper relationship with him. He knows that struggles are part of our human condition. There will always be problems, persecutions and temptations. There are no easy solutions or quick fixes for most of them. Thus, he invite us to find courage, wisdom and strength in our relationship with him.
The invitation to take the Heart of Jesus is also a summons to allow our heart to become unto his Heart. It is an invitation to receive the sensus Christi that we may see like Jesus sees, think like Jesus thinks and feel like Jesus feels. It is an invitation to collaborate with Jesus in the work of redemption. As we enter into a deeper relationship with Christ, our sorrows and problems acquire a new perspective. Jesus becomes our very strength and we are drawn closer to those who, like us, are suffering and in need of comfort and peace.
The storms will continue. Many will struggle and doubt that anyone will come to their assistance. Jesus invites us to collaborate in his plan of bringing comfort, peace, justice, beauty, truth and love to those in need. He is calling us to deepen our bond with him so that we might become more like him. He is inviting us to feel with the feelings of his Heart, which are basically love for his Father and love for all women and men. Jesus is calling us to recognize the chaos and the suffering in our Church and in our soul, and in response to learn compassion – to “suffer with” those in need. We are called to be compassionate with the poor, the alienate, the infirm. We are called to help Jesus calm the storms of their lives. We are invited to stand along their side, and to invite them to see that the Lord is our shepherd and there is nothing we shall want.
Questions: What are the storms in my life Jesus wants to calm? Have I ever felt with the feelings of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? How do I feel about feeling in that way? How do I receive Jesus’ invitation to collaborate with him in the work of redemption?