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August 1996

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. (Matthew 14:27)

The marvellous occasion when Jesus said these words is well known. Having multiplied the loaves and fed thousands of people, and after having asked his disciples to go ahead of him to the other side of the lake, Jesus went into the hills to pray.

While the boat was being tossed about on the waves because of the headwind, Jesus came towards the Twelve, walking on the water. Seeing him they were terrified and cried out with fear, &quotIt is a ghost!" But Jesus reassured them saying:

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

At these words Peter said, &quotIf it is you, command me to come to you on the water." &quotCome," Jesus replied.

Peter began walking confidently towards him, but because of the violence of the wind, he was frightened and began sinking, so he cried out, &quotLord, save me!" And Jesus held him, saying, &quotYou of little faith, why did you doubt?"

As they got into the boat the wind dropped and the disciples bowed down before him and exclaimed, &quotTruly you are the Son of God! " (cf. Mt. 14:28-33)

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

Bible scholars think that in recounting this episode the Gospel writer did not want only to say what happened, but he tells it in such a way that it has meaning for the life of the early Christian communities. For him, the boat struggling on the waves symbolises the Church. The whole story is intended to mirror the situation of the Christian community left alone in the storm and in the night of trials because Jesus, who had ascended into heaven, was no longer visible and seemed far away.

Also for those dark times that the first Christians were living through, Jesus had said:

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

But it is not only the Christian community that can go through dark times. You too, like any Christian, might have experienced the wavering of your whole Creed. You might have experienced something of the night of faith.

Even the saints had similar trials. St Therese of Lisieux is a well-known example of this: the materialism, which in her day had already begun to pollute the atmosphere, did not even spare her as she drew close to death.

These are terrible moments! Perhaps you have experienced them too and have felt alone in your trial and thought you had to struggle, without help, against the wind.

But just when everything around you makes you think that Jesus is not there, is far off, or non-existent, often his presence is shown to you in an unexpected way in the midst of difficulties, as happened to the disciples.

Jesus foresaw these moments of darkness and of light, and before his death said: &quotYou have pain now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice." (John 16:22)

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

Jesus walking on water is clearly the Sovereign of all creation and the Lord of life and death. This is a truth of our faith.

But this might trouble you in certain moments and might seem to be the fruit of your imagination, 'a ghost' as the disciples said.

But just as Jesus' presence, which initially frightened Peter, then inspired him with such trust and certainty that he was not afraid to walk on water, so it must be with you.

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

Jesus wants the whole Church and each Christian to take courage in their moment of trial and not to succumb. He wants them to have complete trust in him, despite appearances. He wants, above all, Christians to live in such a way that he is always present in their midst. He showed the way of doing this when he said, &quotWhere two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them" (Mt. 18:20), for when he is present danger goes away. Indeed, as soon as Jesus and Peter stepped into the boat 'the wind ceased'. (Mt. 14:32)

So let's throw ourselves into living the life we have, doing all we can so that Jesus is never absent.

To be united in his name means to be united in him, in the reality he brings, in his will, which is above all: 'love one another'. (John 13:34)

If we do this, if we are ready to love one another as he has loved us, he will be in our midst. And what better companion could we have in this life which then opens up for all of us on to eternity?

Chiara Lubich

 

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