Walking on the Water
Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first inaugural address in 1933 as the new American President of the U.S.A. said the following famous words: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
In today’s gospel Jesus says: “It is I, do not be afraid,” (v.20). Jesus commands this to the Twelve when they give in to panic upon seeing Him walks on the water. There was a story I read about a tourist who asked how much it would cost to experience a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee. “$100.00,” said the boatman. “No wonder Jesus walked on the water!” was the tourist’s reply. The disciples think that they are seeing a ghost. He reassures them. Why they think they are seeing a ghost? It is because the Jews believe that when anyone sees God face-to-face, he dies. Like for example, Moses, he saw only the back of God. And after that, he had to put a veil over his face when he went down from the mountain because the Israelites could not look at the radiance of his face. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, do they see a ghost or are they afraid to see God, who is Jesus, face-to-face and this means they will die? We should not be afraid of Jesus seeing Him walking on the water because this is an ordinary thing for Him to do. In the four gospels we find also Jesus saying: “Do not be afraid,” no less than 15 times. In fact, it has often been said that “fear not!” is the most often repeated commandment of the Bible, more than 365 times!
Psychologists John B. Watson and Paul Ekman have argued that, fear is innate in all human beings. Fear is a defensive and survival advantage. It is usually a response to a particular stimulus. Like for example, a person may see a spider and experience fear. Fear serves as motivation to escape to safety. And all of us experience fears (real or imagined), limitations and inadequacies in this life. That is why our tendency is always to back out, hesitate or even run away from difficult situations. I am sure what we need is more prayer and faithfulness in order for us not to be afraid. And Jesus never tires of reassuring us not to be afraid. And not only these words, He prays for us; He promises the help of the Holy Spirit; He gives us the Eucharist and promises to be with us always until the end of the world; He gives us His Mother. In other words, Jesus is there to calm the storms of our lives. But sometimes he lets the storm rage and calms His child. This is true.
At the end I hope and pray that this true but tragic story will not happen to us too. Let me tell you this story. A woman was once walking along a riverbank with her child. Suddenly the child slipped into the river. The mother screamed in terror. She couldn’t swim, and besides, she was in the latter stages of pregnancy. Finally, somebody heard her screaming and rushed down to the riverbank. The utter tragedy was, when they stepped into those murky waters to retrieve that now dead child, they found that the water was only waist deep! That mother could have easily saved her child but didn’t because of a lack of knowledge (from: Hell’s Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort, 1989, pp. 160-161).
“Fear is useless. What is needed is trust.”