Intro to Mass.
Today brings us the second dramatic gospel in a row of St. Peter and the apostles’ experience of a super, extraordinary event with Jesus. (Last week, from Matthew 17, it was the Transfiguration Event.) Today it is the Walking on the Water by Jesus, told in Matthew 14, and it includes a short-lived stepping on water time by Peter, joining Jesus in the ‘wave walking.’ In past homilies on this text, I have emphasized Jesus’ divinity from the Gospel account, and also how we’ve had inspired moments where we got out of the boat and partook of something of a faith miracle or holy action. This time around, however, I will emphasize a particular word/phrase* in the Gospel today that can take us deeper into the story.
Gospel Matthew 14
“After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get (immediately*) into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds… (then when) the boat (was) a few miles offshore, (it) was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he (Jesus) came toward them (as ‘catching up’ and to help, but in the manner of) walking on the sea…(and) they were terrified (by it). Immediately* Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately* Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter…After they got into the boat, the wind died down.”
I will tell you immediately what word/phrase stood out for me in this Walk on Water Matthew 14 text. That word is “immediately.” Immediately “Jesus stretched out his hand…” you heard that in verse 31 as Peter needs help for he is sinking in the sea… Now a bit earlier, in verse 27, something had happened immediately. The moment the apostles saw His figure walking on the sea, and had fallen into fright, immediately Jesus identifies Himself and speaks that He has come to help them. Jesus spoke to them “take courage, it is I.” … Then earlier at the start of the Gospel story, there is a third immediacy. It says in verse 22, that Jesus had them put out into the sea, at once, right away, immediately after the multiplication of the loaves account had happened.
There is a message to this immediate Jesus for us. Matthew 14 from the Greek translation is the one that conveys the immediacy. It has three repetitions in the Walking on Water story.
Verse 22 at the story’s beginning says Jesus made them get into the boat, and the Greek bible translation says it was an immediate word. He wants them to go forth without Him this time. He will somehow catch up to them. Peter and the apostles were told to immediately embark towards their next planned stop, via the sea travel route they had planned. This was happening in the context of the finish of that miraculous hillside feeding of the 5000, and Jesus wants them not to revel in it, nor will He, as He’ll see them off, then He alone will dismiss the crowd, as so to go pray up alone on a higher mount from there, one that overlooked the Galilean sea. What does Jesus want? No time to celebrate this miracle, or to relax and enjoy what just happened. Immediately Peter and the apostles are sent across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus will be alone to pray to the Father for what’s next to come. Jesus goes up the hillside, and from that place, He can see the boat of apostles heading out into the Sea of Galilee.
I want you to picture the boat as the Church, Jesus’ collected followers, and that it is boarded by followers who have obeyed Him. We have to imitate this example here, that the disciples did as Jesus commanded, and headed for what was next to come. Peter did not first get a weather report on the sea conditions, they went forth to the next place. Sometimes God just wants our trust, almost right away, in the right now—and we can go together as a people ready for the next thing God will introduce.
Sometimes it is a storm ahead, as quickly happens. Jesus sees it developing, and the Father will tell Him, they make think themselves alone without You, but here You are and I watching over them carefully. When they cry out, go appear to them, Jesus, immediately, walk on the waves to them. Then, join them in the boat, and peace will come.
My friends, we are the boat, the vessel, the Church—and I would say that we are tossed about pretty hard in the waves of change and storms of life. Jesus is there for us. Immediately. You know it, for You are here today, believing in His Presence and Care.
We go now to the second time immediately is used. The first was the apostles going right away off in the boat. Now they are in the sea and it is rocking, and it is late at night, the fourth watch.
This Gospel is another dramatic one with Peter in it. Maybe you can put yourself into the text as in the place of Peter, and, from that position he and the disciples notice a figure coming upon them on sea and get more frightened, “it is a ghost, one exclaims in terror, as if the storm wasn’t frightening enough. Jesus immediately says, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” The text says he immediately says it. He doesn’t tarry to say He’s there to save them.
So, in the next application of something happening immediately Jesus sees from the mount that they have faithfully gone forth to sea, but now a fast squall wind had come up upon that boat and overwhelmed even Peter and those three other expert Galilee seamen. He will need to go and help them. He will walk out to them, in another powerful miracle, right atop the sea, and He will save them and calm the waters. They see Him coming on the waters, and Jesus says immediately to them, “It is I, here with you, do not be afraid.” Peter is immediately strengthened by Jesus, so much so, that he gets out of the boat and starts walking to Jesus.
You and I are in this same boat of faith, the Church, the body of believers in Jesus. He knows us intimately. As Jesus is come among us, sometimes some people among us do react right away in courage and love and conviction. Or they have a divine inspiration, as so fixed on Jesus. We see some people jump out and spiritually walk on water. Jesus loves this immediate reaction of Peter, as it shows the burly disciple is really growing, even letting his sort-of-impulsive but true to form side be a blessing for him.
This is the acting forth God wants to develop in us. To just trust Him. To be fixed upon Him.
Wondrous things happen.
We in the boat are blessed when others will “get” Jesus this immediately, as we all need to benefit from one another’s trust in God.
Now we get to the third use of Immediately in the Gospel text.
But looking down to the waves, Peter sinks, and calls out right away, “Lord, help me.” Immediately Jesus grabs hold of him.
Jesus stretched out his hands and did so save Peter. Our closing song lyrics today at Mass is “Precious Lord, take my hands…through the storm and night, lead me aright, lead me home.”
In the end, we need to be trained to say “Lord, help me.” One day, it will be for Him to lift you into paradise, you know.
Be like Peter in the sea, sinking. Feel yourself being pulled up by Jesus. At once. Right away. Immediately. This is the Jesus we Catholics do know—the Lord Jesus Who will be there for us, even urgently. Jesus did notice big Peter’s faith—for Pete even got out of the boat to walk to Jesus, so fixed on Christ was he, not on the storm or limitations about him, but that Christ was there for them. He is the God Who is with us, really even in our problems and dilemmas, as well as joys and wonders. God is immediate. God is Present. The God-man Jesus is the heaven-and-earth, and God-and-humankind connection. That’s the Incarnation Mystery, the divine Word made flesh, God is invested in us. We cry out “Lord come to our aid” and He is present already, and has been watching over us beforehand, too—and looking ahead for us+. (+Which is the Transfiguration homily message from last Sunday.)
That instance of immediate can apply to us and our situations. We are the Church, indeed as like the boat of Jesus’ followers. God is our authority in Jesus Christ and He has His teachings and commands and holy sacraments to follow. Do we act like Peter and the apostles, and, upon being told by Jesus to follow His orders, carry it out? Do we set forth as His followers and do what He is asking of us, carrying it out? We call the loyal disciples of Jesus as “the faithful.” It’s a term for those obedient followers of Jesus—we have something big in common—we are faithful to Him.
Jesus will see what situations we get into for being His faithful and living the life of Catholic Faith for Him. He will look out for us. We heard about that last week in the Transfiguration Story of Matthew’s Gospel, as Jesus providentially prepares Peter, James and John for the scandal and trial coming of the Savior’s Cross at Calvary, for the life-giving Sacrifice revealed at the next Passover, for a Last Supper. As I preached on it last week, The Transfiguration gives ahead to them what they will need. God does supply all of our needs in Christ Jesus.
In application of this Gospel scene, we might have had cases when we became in obvious need of help and saving, and we have needed to learn that God has had His eye on us all the time. He came to our rescue in Jesus for salvation, and it has covered us in that ultimate saving out of sin and death, but also in life’s difficulties, God does care and see us and act to help.
In the case of Jesus up on the Galilean hillside and watching the faithful apostles become urgently in need, out on the Galilee, it is as like Jesus watching His Church, and He appreciates our fidelity and trust on Him, and while experiences and events come upon us in this broken, troubled world, He is there for us.
Peter takes a few steps in trust of Jesus in this episode, then sinks—and we have learned some trust and faith, and also may falter, but Jesus immediately grasps us, and pulls us in—and the boat is His Body, the Church, this vessel of Faith. In each Holy Mass, then, He says: Let me hold onto you, reach out and I will take you safe. I am immediately at hand. I am here with you.
I am Immanuel. The God Who is with you. Available immediately.
Are you of good faith? Do you see Me and trust Me?
Oh yes, I see the trouble the world is in, but I give you shelter in abiding with Me, and I will take this vessel home to Glory in the finish.