The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 9, 2020
“We Proclaim Faith!”
Jonah 2:1-9; Psalm 29; Romans 10:6a-11; Matthew 14:22-33
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
In the gospel, Jesus walked on the water. In the Bible, water symbolizes several things – among which is life, renewal, regeneration, cleansing. Water also represents danger, chaos, opposition to God and even death.
In Jonah, the currents engulfed him and battered him and he feared for his life. In Genesis 1:2, the darkness covered the deep waters and the Holy Spirit hovered over the darkness, the chaos, the danger and the opposition, but the Spirit of God brought life, light, order and peace. During Noah’s time, flood brought death and chaos, but he was saved by God. The ark, represented the refuge of God, hovered over the water and Noah was saved. In Moses and in the Israelite’s case, the Red Sea was the opposition to freedom, but they were saved by God’s will. The same with Joshua, as he led the people to the Promised Land, they faced the Jordan River as their opposition. Again, God triumphed over the waters.
The story in the gospel happened in the fourth watch of the night – the darkest hour of the night; and the boat where the disciples were was being battered by waves - a picture of life’s scourges, tests and trials. Jesus was seen walking, hovering over the surface of the deep waters proclaiming the lordship over sin, chaos, corruption, evil attacks, and darkness. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost, and He spoke these words, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” When Matthew wrote his gospel for the Hebrews, the language used at the time was Greek. The Greek translation of “It is I” is “I AM who I am.” Jesus was echoing the God that Moses met in the burning bush – the great “I AM” – the unchanging God, the same Spirit that hovered over the waters. “It is I” – the great “I AM” is with us, not for us to be afraid but to trust and to obey.
Peter said, “If it is You, the great “I AM”, the God Almighty, command me to come to You.” Jesus did and Peter followed. Jesus subdued the water and with Him, we can too. Peter did walk on water. We should not be too caught up with the situation to explain scientifically how this thing happened. This is not the purpose. The purpose and the message of the gospel is: like Jesus, we overcome these things that we face in this world in form of tribulations. We can partake of this Divine nature and participate in this Divine life and conquer these things.
The great “I AM” called us to conquer and to walk on the water. How do we do this? Same as Peter did: he fixed his eyes on Jesus. One translation says that Peter fixed his eyes on the source, the goal of faith. Lay aside what prevents us from conquering and walking on the water. It is not as if Peter just discovered that there was the wind, the storm and the water. He knew that all along. He was not denying it. Sometimes, we are in denial and say that we have no problems and that we can face our challenges. These are present – our God given senses are aware that they are there. Jesus said that we will have tribulations. We cannot deny this, but in the midst of all we do not fear and look to Him who has overcome the world.
The One who bids Peter to come is the Lord God and we will not fail. Peter failed for a while as he shifted his focus from Jesus to the wind; from the overcomer to the crisis, and this is when he started sinking. If we focus on the trouble, then it grows and grows and causes us to fear and to forget God. Then, we start sinking.
I had times of great courage and power because of faith, but I also experienced fear as well. Recently, I was so downcast and affected by the waves around me. I magnified it. These things come to us. The prophet Elijah defeated 450 priests of Baal with boldness then feared one woman, Jezebel. Sometimes, we do not look at the source of power but at the source of our crisis. See the size of a cockroach and realize that our foot is much bigger than it is. The sun is enormous and so bright but we can block the sun with a peso coin if we hold it close enough to our eye. We magnify something that is really small compared to the power of God. We don’t have to do this because it will just pull us down so that we would sink.
Jesus said to Peer, “Why did you doubt?” Doubt is when we stop looking to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t stop being doubtful; Jesus doesn’t stop being Lord of the flood, but we shift our focus off of Him and onto the problem, to the crisis, then, fear sets in.
Magnify the Lord! God is God. He is big. He is infinite and we can’t hold His size or His power. He is always there, but in our perception, to build our faith, we magnify God. We are not to enlarge our problems in our perception and in our minds because this is what gets us in trouble. When this happens, Jesus is always there – ever forgiving, never condemning, who saves and lifts us up. Matthew said in the gospel that Jesus pulled Peter immediately out of the water. By God’s grace we are lifted up too.
There are two definitions of a saint. One is: a saint is not one who never fails but he is one who gets up every time he fails by God’s grace. It is easy to look at the problem especially at this time. We are battered by waves on every side – economic, social and political crisis – in many parts of the world. There is political tension as people blame because of frustration. What we have is temporary and God’s kingdom is forever.
A second definition of a saint is: one whose eyes are fixed on Jesus. As a song says, “You can’t look down; keep your eyes on the Lord, then you will not fail.” It is not our own ability or our own boldness. Most, if not all, will be affected by a crisis. We are on the boat and somehow we have security; but when we are being battered by the waves and God calls us to step out of the boat, all the more, the test is difficult. All the more the tension is intense. All the more, the temptations will come. But Jesus says, “Fix your eyes on Me and you will not fail.” It is not because we can control our emotions, but it is because we look to the Source of life, power, and everything that we need to overcome the darkness, the deep waters, the flood, the crisis and anything evil that is coming from the enemy that is destroying us.
We can overcome but we need to fixed our eyes on the great “I AM” for this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.