Saturday, August 23, 2008
MORE FROM THE 9TH. SUNDAY - THE POWER OF FAITH AND OF FEAR
EXPLORING ТHE SCRIPTURES
Matthew 14: 22-34
For last Sunday's Gospel reading, I offer the following reflection from scripture scholar, Donald Senior.
The second miracle in this sequence of the Gospel is one of Matthew’s most effective passages. The basic details about Jesus’ miraculous walking on the water over an angry sea and his mysterious encounter with the disciples and their battered boat are all borrowed from Mark (6: 45-52). Both Gospels make a profound assertion about the divine power of Jesus who, like God depicted in the Hebrew Scriptures, treads upon the crests of the sea (Job 9:8) and whose majestic words to the disciples, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid,” echo the revelatory words of the God of Israel *cf. Isa 4:1-4; 10; 43:25, etc.).
But Matthew enriches the story with material not found in Mark. Peter, the consistent spokesman for the disciples in this Gospel, asks to duplicate Jesus’ own dominance over the chaos of the sea (14:28). True to the Gospel’s assertion, the disciple is able to do the same as Jesus (cf. 10:1). But, as he will do throughout the Gospel, Matthew likes to pair the disciples’ glory with their flaws. Peter experiences the power of the chaos, and fear begins to drag him down. His response is the best instinctive response of the believer, “Lord, save me!” Jesus instantly rescues Peter and, when all are in the boat, the awed disciples worship Jesus with the fullness of Christian faith: “Truly, you are the Son of God’ (v. 33).
Mark’s version of the story does not include the Peter incident and his portrait of the disciples presents them as completely lacking in understanding or faith. But for Matthew that boat crew images his own church: buffered, frightened, but clinging to belief, a community “of little faith” (cf. 6:30).
The chapter closes with the boat at shore and the Gospel’s repeated testimony to the healing power of Jesus (14:36).
The Gospel stresses the inclusion of the disciples in Jesus’ power to feed and to heal. Only fear stands in the way of their ability to carry out their mission. Does our own story of Christian discipleship have any parallels to the experiences of Peter and the Twelve? - Donald Senior, CP -