August 1996

The Word of Life, taken from Scripture, is offered each month as a guide and inspiration for daily living.

"Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid" (Mt 14:27)

The wonderful episode in which Jesus spoke these words is well known. After having multiplied the bread and fed the crowd, he had told his apostles to get into the boat and to go on ahead of him to the other side of the lake, while he withdrew to the mountain to pray.

As the boat struggled against the wind and was being tossed about by the waves, Jesus came toward the twelve, walking on the sea. Upon seeing him, the apostles were terrified and cried out, "it is a ghost!" Jesus, however, reassured them by saying:

"Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid"

At these words, Peter said "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." "Come," Jesus replied. Confidently, Peter began to walk on the water toward Jesus. Then, suddenly, he became frightened because of the high winds and he began to sink. He cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus reached out, grabbed hold of him and said, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

When they got into the boat the wind died down. The disciples fell at Jesus' feet and said, "Truly, you are the Son of God" (cf. Mt 14:28-33).

"Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid"

Biblical scholars think that in recounting this episode the evangelist was not satisfied with simply relating a series of events, but rather he presented them in a way that would have a direct bearing on the life of the first Christian community. For him, then, the boat floundering in the waves, would represent the Church, and the story would reflect the situation in which the members of the first Christian community found themselves after Jesus had ascended to heaven. Since Jesus was no longer visibly present and seemed far away from them, they felt abandoned and alone in the storm and in the "night" of this trial. Jesus' words would therefore also be meant for those dark hours which the early Christian community experienced.

"Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid"

Christians, however, can experience such dark moments not only as a community, but also as individuals. You too, like any other Christian, may have experienced serious doubts of faith. You may have seen everything you believe in begin to waver.

Even the saints have undergone trials of this kind. It is enough to think of St. Therese of Lisieux as she was close to death. The materialism which in her time had already begun to make its negative influence felt, tried to influence her, too.

Such moments are terrible! Maybe you have experienced them, too, and have felt alone in the face of great difficulty. Perhaps you thought you would have to struggle unassisted against the wind.

However, just when everything that surrounds you is leading you to believe that Jesus is absent, far away and non-existent, he often reveals himself to us unexpectedly amidst the difficulties, just as he did with the disciples.

Jesus foresaw these moments of darkness and of light, and before his death said, "You are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice" (Jn 16:22).

"Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid"

Jesus walking on the water is clearly the Sovereign of all creation and Lord of life and death. It is a truth of our faith.

But this truth might trouble you in certain moments and might appear to be the fruit of your imagination, "a ghost," as the disciples said.

But just as Jesus' presence, which initially frightened Peter, afterward inspired him with such trust that he was not afriad to walk on the water to reach Jesus, so it must be with you.

"Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid"

Jesus wants the entire Church and each individual Christian to take courage in their moment of trial and not to succumb. He wants them to have complete trust in him, notwithstanding what the circumstances may indicate. He wants Christians to live in such a way that he may always be present among them. He indicated how to do this when he said, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst" (Mt 18:20). For when he is present, danger goes away. Indeed, as soon as Jesus and Peter got into the boat, "the wind died down" (Mt 14:32).

So let us strive to live this life of ours intent upon doing everything in such a way as to insure Jesus' continued presence among us. To be united in his name means to be united in him, in the reality that he brings with him, in his will that is above all, "As I have loved you, so you also should love one another" (Jn 13:34).

If we do this, If we are ready to love one another as he has loved us, he will be in our midst. And what better companion could we have in this life which is opening onto eternity?

Chiara Lubich