Recently I’ve been pondering the story in Matthew 14:22-33. This is the story of Jesus coming across the water at night to the disciples who are being tossed around by a storm on the lake. I am often drawn to the interaction between Peter and Jesus in Peter’s failed attempt to walk on water to Jesus. But this time, the line that caught my attention was “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.” My lectio led me to consider how I might look for Jesus coming to me in the stormy times of my life.
At midday prayer on Tuesday, we heard the reading in a different translation. In this version Jesus said, “Get ahold of yourselves, it is I. Do not be afraid.” That translation grabbed my attention. The words “Take courage” do seem too formal or restrained to do much good when I am caught up in storms of fear in my life. “Get ahold of yourself” gets right to the point and has the power to wake me up when I have given in to fear, anxiety or powerlessness.
There is plenty in our world to unsettle us and make us afraid: violence, political intrigue, economic uncertainty, illness, famine, natural disasters and more that threaten human life. In the midst of the uncertainty and fear, Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I.” When we have let ourselves become engulfed in despair or paralyzing fear, Jesus says, “Get ahold of yourselves.”
We need help to remember that there is more to this life than the threat of storms or fear. In various ways, we can be Christ to each other saying, “Take courage. Get ahold of yourself. Jesus is here in the midst of human life. Do not be afraid.” Can we see Jesus coming to us in the midst of the storm?
When we share the Eucharist we look each other in the eye and say: “the Body of Christ.” Can we hear Jesus in those words saying, “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid?” When we gather for an anointing service, through the laying on of hands, the anointing with oil and the prayers we say to each other, “Take heart, Jesus is present with you in your illness or distress.”
Jerome Kodell,* OSB, former abbot and Scripture scholar has written that God’s mantra to us in the Scriptures can be summed up this way: “I will be with you. I love you. Trust me.” Those are good words to carry us through any storm.
*Jerome Kodell, OSB is the presenter for the Benedictine retreat at Holy Wisdom Monastery, St. Benedict’s Strategy for Personal Freedom on September 29 – October 1, 2017. Click here to learn more and register