Eucharist reflection: Be not afraid

As we continue to celebrate the Year of the Eucharist in the Archdiocese of Boston, I give you this video from a series of talks on the Eucharist that Brs. Jorge, Jonathon and I gave at St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine in Boston in summer 2020. You can check out my previous talks: Healing through the Eucharist on June 28, 2020, and Be the Wheat on July 19, 2020.

I was drawing lessons from Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on the water (Mt 14:22-33) from the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time on Aug. 9, 2020. The words of my reflection are below the video.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

One day, my sister and I were doing yard work by an apple tree.  Suddenly, a spider from the tree dropped down next to me.  I froze.  I didn’t know how long I stood there.  But my sister’s voice snapped me out of it: “Jonas, it’s just a spider.”  I looked at my sister and slowly backed away from the spider and the tree.

OK, so spiders and I aren’t best friends.

But my sister mirrored Jesus’ lesson in today’s Gospel.  The disciples thought that they saw a ghost on the water and cried out in fear.  Their fear kept them fixated on the unknown.  Don’t we do that?  Don’t we feel paralyzed by our fears? 

But Jesus snapped them out of their fear.  He drew their attention away from the unknown to a friend with three short sentences.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” (REPEAT)

 In the Greek, Jesus used the same words which God had given Moses for his name: I AM.  Jesus as the Great I AM, as God, came to his disciples.  He came to them amid the wind and waves.  Why should they fear?  He was there.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

God is here in our troubles.  But what kind of God do we want?  Do we want the God of the universe, who controls wind and waves?  Or do we want the God, who sits in the boat with us?  I prefer the first one.  The danger of having God in the boat with us is that we will push God overboard and take the rudder.  “Sorry, God, you’re not doing anything.  I’m taking over here.”

We are all guilty of that unholy self-reliance.  It comes from fear, fear of something being absent (desert) or fear of something threatening our security (giant bear).  “God, I don’t need you.  I can take care of everything.”  But when we rely only on ourselves, we only hurt ourselves.  We hurt ourselves by doing self-destructive behaviors that worsen the hurt, the shame and the fear.  Our sins pull us deeper and deeper into our mess.

That’s what happened to Peter.  By Jesus’ command, Peter walks on the water.  It seems easy, too easy.  Maybe Peter was beginning to think that HE had got this.  But the wind distracts and frightens him.  For that moment, Peter thinks that the wind is more powerful than Jesus’ word.  He begins to sink.  The only thing he could do is cry out to Jesus for help.

 Can we like Peter cry out for Jesus’ help?

Sometimes, not.  We might be sinking, but we still have our unholy self-reliance.  I can take care of this.  But the best thing to do is admit that we can’t do it on our own and we need Jesus’ help.  Remember Jesus’ words.

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Jesus saved Peter.

When they climbed back onto the boat, the wind stopped. 

Funny, the storm was still brewing when Jesus walked on the water.  Amid our hurt, stress and chaos, Jesus meets us.  He wants us to come to Him.  But the problems don’t end immediately.  Only when Jesus was welcomed and accepted, did the wind stop.

Healing begins when we welcome Jesus in our hearts.  When we bring to Jesus those parts of our hearts that hurt us, worry us or toss us about, Jesus brings his peace, understanding and healing to them.  Healed, we can worship Jesus and say, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”

Healing begins when we welcome Jesus in our hearts.  That starts at the Mass.  We receive Jesus in Communion.  It continues now at Adoration.  Let him reign in your heart.  May Jesus’ voice always say in your heart: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

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