Meditation of the week

The efficacy of prayer

Matthew 14,22-23.

After feeding the crowds (14,13-31) Jesus sends the disciples away in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, dismisses the crowds, and goes off  into the hills to pray to his Father.  Mt mentions Jesus praying only twice – here and in Gethsemane 26,36f.

The boat, “battling with a heavy sea”, is for Mt an image of the Church struggling in some dark storm, persecution or trial.   The darkness of the night, the terror they felt of the apparent ghost  coming towards them on the sea, and their cry out in fear, all point to a  lack of faith.

Jesus calls out to them, asking them to have courage, revealing his identity, and telling them not to fear. “It is I” has resonances of Ex 3,14 when God made himself known to Moses at the burning bush.  Peter, impetuous as ever, and doubting Jesus’ identity, challenges Jesus to prove his claim, by asking him to walk towards him on the water. Jesus, obligingly, invites him to “Come.” All goes well as Peter takes his first steps towards him, but as a stiff blast of wind strikes him, he panics, losing his focus on Jesus, and more importantly, forgetting Jesus’ focus on him, and begins to sink. With the little faith he has left draining out of him, he cries out in desperation for the Lord to save him.  Reaching out a helping hand, Jesus drags Peter from the stormy sea. Having rescued him, Jesus questions not his daring but his lack faith in him. “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As they both enter the boat, and the wind drops in strength, the disciples drop their heads in homage, declaring, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” They have a new and deeper insight into his true identity and the storm has passed. The miracle begins in the context of Jesus praying alone in the hills and ends with the disciples bowing down before him  in the boat expressing their faith in him.

Jesus took the initiative in this miracle. He came to the disciples in their need. He spoke to them to reassure them in their danger. He acceded to Peter’s request. As Peter sank into the water Jesus reached out a hand at once and held him. The caring, saving way in which Jesus came to the disciples in the storm and responded to Peter’s challenge, doubts, and sinking, is a pattern for his relationship with each of us in our difficulties. He always takes the initiative on our behalf, too.

The command, “Do not be afraid,” occurs frequently in the Bible.  The disciples fear in the storm was linked to the physical absence of Jesus from them.  Although not present with them in the boat he was present to them because he knew about their problem with the storm from the shore.  Had they known that he knew, they may not have worried for their safety, and trusted in his care for them. Hopefully after this miracle they will have learned to do so.

Have you felt the Lord’s presence with you in your difficulties?

Are fear and faith incompatible?

This story shows how responsive the Lord is to the prayer of those in need or danger. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask the Father to deliver us from evil. A saint reminds us that when we meet our heavenly Father we shall be amazed at the countless times He has protected us from dangers, unknown to us.

Father Geoff O’Grady