In summer 2013, I did my clinical pastoral education (CPE) in Reading in Pennsylvania. There, I was blessed and privileged to encounter many sick people in the hospital who gladly opened their sacred garden of life for me to enter. They shared their intimate and personal life stories. They were all experiencing depths of despair and challenging storms. All these stories that I listened to were stories of simple people who were walking on water. Some were still in their boats calling on God to their aid while the storms continue to hit it hard. As I became part of their stories, I realized in many of them how their faith was helping them to walk through. Meanwhile, in times when things seemed to be all right, they were not able not to realize how little faith they have. They never realized how difficult it could be to find the meaning of life when they are having hardship. Indeed, when we enter the darkness in which we are helpless and alone, we measure how strong is our faith in Jesus. When storms come in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, we realize how well do we distinguish the encouraging voice of God and that of the evil. Hence, as a human being, storms have always sown confusion and fear in our lives. It sometimes takes away or weakens our faith to the extent that we begin to doubt the presence and closeness of God to us. And once fear takes control over us, we are then deprived of our peace. At such moments we know we cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us and restore calm to our troubled lives. That is why today’s readings come handy by encouraging us to never give up. And so, through today’s readings, the Church is reminding us that Jesus Christ is always close to us no matter how heavy the storms of our lives are. He is in our hearts to calm the storms of our life. He is going to lift us from the depths of despair and restore our peace.
As Christ said to Peter, so he also says to us today: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” So, all we need to do is to trust Him and keep walking without the fear of sinking. Like Peter, we must step out with faith and courage against the storms of our life. But then we should be careful not to confuse Jesus with a ghost who comes and seeks our death. So, we need to build a strong relationship with Jesus Christ so that we can recognize his voice when he calls us out. The stronger is our relationship with Christ the easier it is to recognize him even from the distance of our life experience. And when the difficult moments come, we can listen to the voice of Christ as he tells us to leave the boat and start walking towards him. But what if we begin to sink? It is then that, like Peter, we cry out to him for help. He is not a ghost-like figure from the past. He is the Son of God who lives in our hearts and among us. Therefore, let us hold on firmly to Jesus, who calms our storms and restores our peace.
Let us pray for those whose personal boats are being crushed by waves. Maybe it is an illness, maybe it is a fractured relationship, maybe it is economic uncertainty. Sometimes, the storms are visible to others and sometimes they are hidden, but the storms are very real. But today’s Gospel passage reminds us that God and Jesus are with us in life’s toughest moments when waves threaten to drown us.
By Fr. Ouwakpare Victorin Oussoi, SVD.