Anne O’Brien, Director of Mission at St Agnes’ Catholic Parish and a friend of Fr Paul, reads from the Gospel of Matthew (14: 22-36) in which Jesus comes to his disciples walking on the water of the lake, saying ‘Courage, it is I… do not be afraid’.
Anne says this Gospel presents an interesting test of faith. In winter and spring, apparently, cool air descending from the Golan Heights on to the Lake of Galilee can suddenly whip up the surface of the lake without warning. This fierce easterly wind was feared by fisherman. Anne says, we hear in today’s Gospel it blew all night, preventing the disciples from rowing to the other side.
At the time Matthew’s Gospel was written some Jewish Christians were beginning to waver in their allegiance. The mention of a strong east wind blowing all night was meant to remind them, no doubt, of Moses stretching out a hand to drive back the waters of the Red Sea. Jesus ,we are told, simply walked across the surface of the lake. When he stretched out a hand, it was not to command nature but to clasp hold of his friend. Here was a greater Moses moment and a more personal kind of deliverance.
Now any of us can have moments of doubt in our life, our world is imperilled by moral, ecological and other dangers and, like the disciples, struggling in the face of head wind, it may feel as though the values of our faith are helpless against the world’s challenges that we face. Jesus puts out a hand, ‘Why did you doubt?’, he still asks us, as he asked of Peter. Jesus will be there with us in difficult circumstances and get us to the other side of them.
As Anne concludes her reflection, she shares with us a prayer:
Lord, strengthen our faith whenever doubt or sorrow threaten to overwhelm us,
We pray for those who may be feeling exhausted or demoralised or struggle to cope,
May we be a steady hand to keep them from sinking.
We ask this in your name. Amen