If we were to take today’s Gospel account literally it would have little or no relevance for us. Scripture scholars tell us that Matthew wants the story to be taking symbolically. If we do that, then we can see how we fit into the story and it is relevant for our lives.
The boat represents the Church; the winds and waves stand for the persecutions that had been let loose on the early Christians. Jesus is no longer physically present with them; he is in heaven where he intercedes at the right hand of the Father. In their hour of need, Jesus makes his presence felt among them, calming their fears and bringing them the peace only he can give. Understood in this way the story is very meaningful for us.
There are people who believe that if you have enough faith life will be easy sailing. But we know from experience that this is not so. Faith doesn’t shield us from the hard knocks of life and death. Faith helps us to live through them.
We see this in our first reading today. The Prophet Elijah was a man of faith. However, when the evil Queen Jezebel wanted to kill him because of his opposition to idolatry, the prophet fled. Broken and exhausted, he asked God to take his life. When he followed the guidance of the angel, he experienced the presence of God in the gentle breeze. Elijah was strengthened by that experience and was able to go on with his mission.
The example of Peter is especially enlightening. Peter was a man of faith who declared to Jesus, “Lord, I’m ready to die with you if necessary.” But then Peter started to sink, “I do not know the man!” Peter failed during the passion but was restored after the resurrection in his three-fold confession on the shore at the Sea of Tiberius. Peter represents the typical Christian, caught between faith and doubt.
It is comforting for us to see that at times the apostles and early Christians were weak and fearful. We may think our faith is strong but then the winds blow, and we are not so sure. It is in these weak moments that Jesus reaches out to us and invites us to take his hand. He always ready to lift us up.
We are living in very challenging times. With the pandemic and a lack of trust in our government leaders, it is easy to lose faith. However, we must remember that Jesus is with us, and he simply asks that we acknowledge his presence in the gentle breeze which reminds us of his promise, “I am with you always until the end of the age.”
— Father Dennis