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August 1981

Take heart, it is I; have no fear. (Matthew 14:27)

The marvellous occasion when Jesus spoke these words is well known. Following the miracle of multiplying the loaves and feeding the five thousand, Jesus had withdrawn to a hill to pray after telling his disciples to go on ahead before him to the other side of the lake. While the boat was being beaten by the waves because the wind was against them, Jesus had come towards the twelve walking on the water. They were frightened when they saw him and they cried out, 'It is a ghost'. But Jesus reassured them saying: 

Take heart, it is I; have no fear.

At these words, Peter asked Jesus, 'Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water', and Jesus answered, 'come'. 

The disciple walked confidently on the water towards Jesus until he got afraid that he would sink because the wind was so strong, so he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Jesus caught hold of him saying,'O man of little faith why did you doubt?' 

After they got into the boat the wind ceased and the disciples worshipped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.' 

Take heart, it is I; have no fear.

The scholars suggest that the evangelist in narrating this episode was not just giving an account of the event, but wrote about it in order to make it meaningful for the life of the first Christian communities. The boat which is shaken by the water is a symbol of the Church for the evangelist community, which is abandoned on its own in the storm and the night of trial, when Jesus, after ascending into heaven was no longer visible and seemed to be far away. 

For those dark hours lived by the first Christians Jesus said:

Take heart, it is I; have no fear.

But it is not only the Christian community which can pass through dark moments. Like every Christian you too may have experienced the night of faith, you may have felt the heritage of your belief was being shaken. 

Even the saints have passed hours like this. St. Thérèse of Lisieux is a well known example: materialism which had begun to poison the atmosphere of her times, did not spare even her, as she neared her death. 

Such moment are terrible. You too may have experienced them, you feel you are alone undergoing the trial and you think that you have to fight the wind which is against you, unaided. 

But precisely while everything around you leads you to believe that Jesus is absent, far away, and non-existent, often his presence shows itself to you unexpectedly in the midst of difficulties, just as happened to the disciples. 

Jesus himself, forseeing the moments of darkness and of light, said before he died: "So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice' (Jn. 16,22). 

Take heart, it is I; have no fear.

You can see Jesus walking on the water is the Lord of creation, the Lord of life and of death. 

This manifestation of Jesus can trouble you: "It is a ghost" the disciples said. The manifestations of God are always accompanied by fear, at least initially. It is said that God's divine action can be distinguished from the devil's preternatural action, by this fear which it arouses. 

But just as in Peter the presence of Jesus, after the fear created such trust that he did not doubt that he could reach Jesus walking on the water, in the same way this trust should emerge in you, too. 

In the midst of the storm, no matter what kind of storm it is, be sure that he is saying to you: 

Take heart, it is I; have no fear.

Jesus wants the whole Church and each Christian not to give up but to be courageous and to take heart in the moment of trial. Jesus wants us to trust in him completely despite appearances. He wants us to live in such a way that he may always be amongst us, and showed us how to do this when he said: "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them". The danger recedes while he is present. Once Jesus and Peter were in the boat "the wind ceased'. 

Let's set out to live the life we have, fully committed to doing everything to ensure that Jesus is present. 

Being united in his name means being united in him, in the reality he brings, and being united in his will, which above all is: "Love one another as I have loved you". (Jn. 15, 12). 

If we do this, if we are already to love one another as he has loved us, Jesus will be in our midst. What better companion could we have in this life which then opens out for everyone to eternity?

Chiara Lubich



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