August 2, 2022
by Suzanne Braddock
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 408

Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22
Psalm 102:16-18, 19-21, 29 AND 22-23
Matthew 14:22-36
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Rediscovering Corporal Works of Mercy

The first reading from Jeremiah gave me whiplash. A series of horrible torments visit Israel because of their sins: “Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise, there is none to plead your cause, no remedy for your running sore, no healing for you, … all your lovers have forgotten you, they do not seek you…why cry over your wound? Your pain is without relief.”

If that doesn’t depress you, what will?

But the next paragraph restores all good to Israel. “…songs of praise, the laughter of happy men…” Topping it off with “You shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

As I reflected on the Gospel passage from Matthew, I could see the parallels to the first reading. This has always been one of my very favorite stories, possibly because it is so visual and dramatic. It takes us, as Peter, from belief to fear and disbelief to salvation by the outstretched hand of the Lord in response to Peter’s desperate cry ”Lord, save me!”

Jesus had been alone on a mountain, praying all night, while the disciples obeyed his command to get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side of the lake. When the boat was a few miles into its journey across the lake, the wind rose against it, tossing it about. I’m sure the disciples were anxious under those conditions – the wind was against them. Would they even reach the other side of the lake?

All this happens during the fourth watch of the night – the hours from 3am to 6 am. The fourth watch is a significant hour in the Bible, an hour of many encounters with God which alter the course of Israel’s history. Here it is Jesus walking on the water, coming toward the frightened, screaming disciples who fear he is a ghost. Jesus’ immediate response: AT ONCE (italics mine) Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  We could cut that one out and paste it up in our houses to read daily!

Peter is skeptical: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus simply says “Come.”

We all know what happens next. Peter begins to walk on the water toward Jesus, his faith the winner, but distracted by the strong wind and waves, loses faith and begins to sink. He cries out “Lord, save me!” IMMEDIATELY (emphasis mine) Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him….”O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

The drama on the lake is over and Jesus, once they reach the shore, begins his usual work of healing the sick as many as touched the tassel on his cloak. Business as usual.

Our lives can be like this wonderful gospel passage over and over. We go from fear and doubt to trust and belief, only to stumble and be saved by this Jesus who, in his eagerness to save us, quickly reaches out his strong arm. We wake at night - tossing in our sleep rather than on the waves - during the fourth watch – typically 3 am, and grumble “not again” instead of seeing it as a call from the Lord to reach out to him in prayer, remembering that this hour, this fourth watch, is holy time, a time of close encounter with our loving Lord.

May my first thoughts on waking be:
‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
“Lord, save me!”

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