After the five thousand had eaten and were satisfied, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!" He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I see in you how to live life with the Spirit as my foundation, as the rock that permits me to walk through any troubled moment with peace and joyful abandonment to your will. Gratefully I put all my trust in you and offer all my meager love in return.
Petition: Lord, grant me the grace not only to know, but to live your presence as the one and only foundation of my hope and happiness.
1. He Went off to the Mountain to Pray: Christ did not run his interior life on the thrill of immediate success. The core of what consoled and sustained his heart was not splendid results in the apostolate, but rather his prayerful union with his Father in heaven. Whether results for his mission were easy or hard to obtain, Christ was equally given and equally motivated. Constancy of spirit and firmness of will are founded not on momentary results, but on the peace and deep joy of living the Father’s will. Christ defends this sacred place in his heart with one key element: time. Making time for prayer builds the wall that defends God’s sanctuary in our soul. Time for him alone is what establishes a beachhead for the Kingdom in us, so that we can establish it around us. From there we see what is passing, superficial or vain. This leads us to embrace what is eternal, self-giving and perfect in love.
2. He Saw That They Were Tossed About While Rowing: Whenever the apostles pushed out on the water, it was a time to learn. Water symbolizes life, and waves symbolize all the uncertainties of this life, all the trials and sufferings that seemingly labor to bring our world to a bad end. Christ consistently tests and forms more deeply those whom he loves. Troubles are not eliminated because we have found Christ. Rather, at times they may increase, for they are the training ground of a saint and an apostle. Christ saw the apostles in trouble, but they were never alone—the watchful gaze of Christ never left them, his care was never absent. Let my faith bring me to confidence in that gaze, the all-knowing presence of Christ, in all I do and suffer for him.
3. "Take Courage, It Is I, Do Not Be Afraid!" St. Augustine wrote of this passage, "He came treading the waves; and so he puts all the swelling tumults of life under his feet. Christians -- why be afraid?" Walking with Christ permits us to conquer the waves that wish to overwhelm us. Contact with him in prayer helps us to find solid ground in the midst of quicksand. The conquering Christ reminds us that no evil is stronger than he, that there is no sin or temptation that cannot be put behind us, and that there is no setback in health or business or disappointment in a loved one that cannot ultimately become a new good when we walk in cadence with Christ.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, at times I experience all my human successes and securities with such satisfaction that I forget that in a moment they could all be taken from me. In an instant, what was once stable could turn into a stormy sea. What are these comforts and goods to me, if from the beginning they have not been for you, have not honored you? Will I be able to cling to them in eternity? Forgive my superficiality in these moments. I seek now to ground myself more firmly in you, the true and eternal rock of my life.
Resolution: I will seek to remember the goals I have to achieve today for eternity: holiness of life, fulfillment of God’s will, and service of my neighbor.