Gospel for Sunday, August 13: Matthew 14:22-33
XIX Sunday A
22Immediately afterward he ordered the disciples to get into the boat and precede him to the other shore, while he would dismiss the crowd. 23Dismissing the crowd, he went up the mountain, alone, to pray. As evening came, he still stood alone up there. 24Meanwhile the boat was already a few miles from land and was agitated by waves because of the headwind. 25Toward the end of the night he came toward them walking on the sea. 26The disciples, seeing him walking on the sea, were troubled and said, “He is a ghost,” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you over the waters.” 29And he said, “Come!” Peter got out of the boat and walked on the waters and went to Jesus. 30But because of the violence of the wind, he became afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31And immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, seized him, and said to him, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32As soon as they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33Those who were in the boat prostrated themselves before him, exclaiming, “You are truly the Son of God!”
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
On the 18th Sunday per annum (over which the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, August 6, prevailed this year), the reading of the account of the multiplication of the loaves according to Matthew was scheduled (Mt 14:13-21). According to the fourth gospel, after the multiplication of the loaves, people would like to proclaim Jesus as King Messiah, but Jesus withdraws to the mountain all alone to pray (Jn 6:14-15).
It always amazes us that the Son of God prays, that instead of preaching the Kingdom or performing miracles for so many poor suffering people, he remains hours and hours in conversation with the Father. But this is a great example for us: only in obedient listening to the Word of God read, meditated upon, prayed we can grasp God’s will for us. So many times, in difficulties, we think we can get by with a thousand human devices, and we do not resort to constant, unceasing, humble and filial prayer. Here it would almost seem that in the face of the temptation to present himself as the royal and powerful Messiah, Jesus in prayer confirms his vocation as the poor and suffering Messiah, called to take upon himself all the evil of the world.
WITHOUT JESUS, THE CHURCH DOES NOT EXIST
The Church is the place where the Dead and Risen Jesus is proclaimed, where we can fall in love with Jesus of Nazareth. This is the unique purpose of the Church. So many times we forget this: we make the Church a worldly structure, which must organize itself, have defined and engaging programs, draw to itself with dragging initiatives. And we spend so much time defining pastoral programs, thinking about a “new evangelization.” And we forget about the Protagonist, the main Subject: about Jesus.
The Church in the Gospels is often compared to a boat. But when Jesus is not in this boat, the storm, the gale, the risk of shipwreck prevails. The only thing that matters is to ask ourselves: am I in love with Jesus? Is he at the center of my life? Do I live for him and of him? If not, my life will always be risk, uncertainty, fear. And this is also true at the ecclesial level: a Church in love with her Lord, in intimacy with him, fears nothing, and can well sing Psalm 131: “I instead remain quiet and serene: like a weaned child in his mother’s arms, as a weaned child is my soul in me” (Ps 131:2). It is necessary then that we rely not so much on organizational efforts but on Jesus who, even when we are in danger of sinking, comes to meet us and takes us by the hand (Mt 14:30-31).
JESUS IS THE LORD
The Jews are a people of dry land. They have always been afraid of the sea. Indeed, they never had a fleet of their own: only Solomon organized one, but he used Phoenician sailors, whose expertise was celebrated throughout the Mediterranean. Five hundred and eighty-two times in the Old Testament the word “waters,” in Hebrew majim, is mentioned, but only 397 times does it mention jam, the “sea.” The boundless Great Lexicon of the New Testament, some fifteen volumes in length, never has the word thálassa, “sea,” and settles for hydor, “water.”
For Israel, the sea is peopled by impressive monsters: Leviathan, “twisting, darting serpent, sea dragon,” resembling a huge crocodile (Is 41); Rahab, another monstrous cetacean, Behemoth, resembling a hippopotamus (Job 40:15-24); the Sea Beast of Revelation (13:1-2) rising from the Abyss to destroy the earth (17:8). The sea thus becomes for the Hebrews a symbol of evil.
But God overcomes evil: “It is he who commands the waters of the sea and scatters them over the earth” (Am 5:8): “The Lord of hosts lifts up the sea and makes its waves roar” (Jer 31:35). Divine power is deployed by dominating the sea. The passage of the Red Sea, salvation for Israel and destruction for the Egyptians, is emblematic: “At the breath of your wrath the waters piled up, the waves rose up like a dike, the depths at the bottom of the sea were rapped. You blew with your breath: the sea covered them, they sank like lead into deep waters” (Ex 15:8, 10).
In the New Testament, Jesus rules the stormy sea: “They were seized with great fear, and said to one another, ‘Who is this man to whom even the wind and the sea obey?'” (Mark 4:35-41). Moreover, Jesus walks on the waters of the sea, and even Peter is allowed to walk toward him on the waters (Mt 14:22-26; Mk 6:45-52; Lk 8:22-25; Jn 6:16-21). And in the heavenly Jerusalem, Revelation tells us, the sea, the symbol of evil, will disappear for good: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Rev. 21:1).
Perhaps these accounts of Jesus ruling the sea are post-Easter stories inserted within Jesus’ public life to show at once that he is the Victor of all evil, and that therefore his, “Fear not!” (Mt 14:27) is security, peace, and joy for anyone who follows him.
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.