Do not fear
Mark 6: 45-52
We are coming quickly to the official end of this brief liturgical season of Epiphany. While the lights and memories of Christmas are still with us, but fading fast as life turns back to normal, whatever "normal" is, the Church holds to the Epiphany event. The visit of the Magi was a moment of revelation. Here God revealed the nature of his coming in this child at Bethlehem. That he is here for all, Jew and Gentile alike. The magi, gentiles from the east who represent the ancient nations first to hear the good news of the Gospel preached to them by the missionary Apostles, lay down before this child the best they had. Did you ever wonder about their conversation on the way back? How were they changed? Did they become missionaries in their own right? How have I been changed as I encountered Christ anew in this Christmas season? Good questions as this season winds down and the new year begins.
The Gospel for this Wednesday does not have a Christmas theme as such but rather a theme of Jesus power over nature - a power only God contains. He walks on the turbulent sea towards his frightened disciples being tossed about in a boat on the sea in a storm at night. Although at least half of them were fishermen familiar with this body of water, they still had great respect for its power, especially in a storm. They are sinking and the power of wind and pelting rain left them feeling lost and hopeless as they feared for their lives - and Jesus was not with them.
Yet, he appears in the darkest time of night as he walks towards them upon the rolling waves. A ghost? An evil spirit? As he begins to walk by them they recognize him with the words: "Take courage, it is I, do no be afraid!" The violent wind settles down as Jesus climbs into the boat with them and all is calm. In the longer version found in Matthew 14: 22-33 Peter is invited by Jesus to join him walking on the sea. We know of Peter's enthusiasm but also recognize, often in ourselves, his lack of faith as he took his eyes off the Lord and began to sink.
A moving story, yes, but also deeply symbolic of our lives. When you find yourself in the midst of troubled waters, as famed Simon and Garfunkle sang, what gives you courage? Do you turn to God in prayer? Can you believe the Jesus comes to you in the sometime "train wreck" of our lives? Jesus approached the frightened disciples in the midst of a storm. Those winds did not stop until they placed their faith in the Lord and embraced his presence with them.
This is a story in which they, and us, are called to faith. God is with us even in turbulent times. God remains with his Church, which we well know is presently riding rough seas. Yet historically over the last 2,000 years, the Church has found itself in even more violent waters. Christ remains with his Church and his faithful ones. Let is be us as we take, like the wise magi, his good news out to a world aching for something more meaningful and hopeful than what the world alone can provide.
"Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid."