Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. (Matthew 14:25)
Some translations render this passage more accurately as “In the fourth watch of the night …” indicating that the first three watches were completed and it was the fourth watch. That brings into account that mysterious three and one half mentioned so many times in Scripture. Perhaps you are familiar with it.
The disciples were fishermen, accustomed to sail after sunset but that particular night they sailed into a storm that obviously was blowing their boat back to the center of the lake. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus is approaching. Our Lord is walking on the surface of the abyss, the deep water he once invited Peter and the disciples to cast their nets upon.
Comparing the two scenes one can clearly see that Our Lord is in control. First, when Jesus confidently commands them to go to the deepest part of the lake after a whole night of fruitless work.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5)
In Mark 6, the disciples are struggling to make it ashore to save the boat from the storm.
When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He was inclined to pass them by. (Mark 6:48)
Why was he “inclined to pass them by”? Perhaps the disciples forgot to ask God for help. All seems to indicate they were trying hard and yet counting only on their own strength to save themselves from sinking.
When they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty stadia, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. (John 6:19)
Three and a half miles into their crossing, they see Jesus walking towards them. Understandably, they were terrified. Was that Him? or was it a ghost? Recently in my personal experience, I made the grave mistake to badly judge someone who approached me. When we are out of our familiar surroundings we tend to see danger everywhere. It happens all the time. We forget we are loved by God because we are too busy fighting our battles by ourselves. The disciples were only acting as any other human being would. Isn’t the barque of Peter an apt analogy of the Church, struggling to move towards a future encounter with the Lord? Aren’t we rowing against a strong wind right now? Isn’t it true that many of us are not quite sure if we will make it safely to shore?
We can learn from the disciple’s inexperience. After all, we have been rowing now for two millennia only to find ourselves in the midst of this unmerciful storm. Have we forgotten that Christ might be walking toward us in the night? When the disciples found Him it was almost morning. After the resurrection, Jesus will appear to them early in the morning near the shore, after they struggled fruitlessly to do some fishing.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 21:4)
Now a pattern is emerging: the Church faces great difficulties, men are trying to solve the problem on their own, Jesus is near, unnoticed. Our Lord comes to the rescue before the first light of day.
For all I hear, right now there is enough evidence that we are in the midst of a great storm. A cadre of Modernist, Satanists, Communists, militant homosexualists, and Masonic soldiers have managed to infiltrate the Church from all sides. It has taken them the best part of a century to climb to the upper echelons of the Catholic curia. Some Catholics have tried gallantly to resist, others expose the facts and ask the criminals to resign. Many of us are like the disciples rowing desperately in the night, fearing that perhaps the Church will not make it.
Now look at the whole scene. At the darkest point of the night, in the middle of a strong storm, with the wind blowing the worse possible way … Jesus, the solution, is walking by. He is not walking by the shore. He is walking on the stormy water. He is in total control of the situation. The storm, the strong wind, the fear, the boat, the sails … none of that will ultimately matter. Jesus will come into the boat and all will be just fine.
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ (Matthew 14:28-33)
There is another mini-parable hidden within the great parable. Both parables teach the same: trust, and do not lose sight of God as He walks near you. Peter wants to make sure that the man walking on the waves is Jesus. “Lord, if it is You …” but as soon as Peter concentrates his attention on the storm, he begins to sink. It is at that moment that he truly believes, although he is sinking he cries to Jesus for help. He is instantly rescued, both of them get into the boat and the wind ceases.
This is not the time to leave the Church. There are many that are rowing desperately, calling for action, asking everyone to row harder. One can understand their preoccupation but the solution is here with us. If we only look to Him and call Him to come and calm the storm, He will. Perhaps we haven’t reached the darkest hour of the night yet, perhaps the storm has not reached its peak.
‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has obtained permission to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’ (Luke 22:31-32)
This is the moment to stay aboard. Our faith will be shaken but those who realize that the crisis itself is a sign of Jesus nearness will not be shaken but stirred by the experience. Fear not, He is with us.