7 August 2008. Tuesday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time
Numbers 12, 1-13; Psalm 51; Matthew 14, 22-36
Just as the night turns to daybreak, Peter fails to walk on water. The time element is important. This is the time when fear comes to me and finds me most vulnerable. Some trivial concern unnoticed at daytime, grips me at the most restful hour. The venue reservation overlooked for an upcoming event. A text left unreturned. A call unanswered. Something I said that might have hurt a friend or a brother like Miriam and Aaron against Moses. The accounting job needed to close a project. The upcoming exam that we think would seal our fate. At nighttime, we get to face those things we ignored or fled from during our busiest hours. When everything is quiet and still, they haunt us. And some of them are important in maintaining meaningful relationships.
Even those who have protected themselves with locks and guards are still prone to undesirable elements. The McCann Erickson 2006 survey said that nowadays people, especially women, are afraid to become crime victims. Our fears control much of our decisions and actions. Fear in our relationships makes us cling or free from our beloved. Fear that what we worked for becomes immaterial makes us obsessed and uptight that it takes the pleasure out of our vocation.
Matthew gives us the ambience of the story: the disciples were separated from Jesus and their boat was threatened by the storm. Good if Jesus were with them; they knew Jesus could calm the storm. But this time, they were alone. And it was dark.
This is where we are most vulnerable when we are afraid: when we are alone and threatened by a bad dream, an imaginary ghost or an intimidating person. When we are terrified we plead as Aaron begged and Moses cried, “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!” or Peter prayed, “Lord, save me!” It is when a sinner, overcome by guilt cries as the psalmist, “Be merciful, O Lord, for I have sinned.”
God then comes to the rescue. God will eventually heal Miriam. Jesus would come to catch Peter before he totally sinks into the water.
The need to have someone who secures, calms and rescues us is important in our lives. We realize that we cannot be self-sufficient. Even in our personal lives, we do not want to be left alone especially in our darkest hours. Thus those of us who realize that no human being can be physically with us all the time, we turn to God and those who have passed away who can. I turn to my Dad (who died in 1990). I turn to God and pray: I grip either my holding cross or a rosary.
Will faith wipe away all fears? In real life, we will be afraid again and again and again. Moses, the prophets, Jesus’ disciples, the saints, were all confounded with fear again and again and again. But as surely as they feared, they knew whose name to call and whose hand will catch them.
So too with us. The spontaneous reaction to fear is natural: babies startle at a sudden activity suggests that it is deeply rooted in humans. Our fears can be real or ridiculous, acknowledged or denied. They are there. Faith does not banish all fears: even if we are used to this tenet! In real life, faith teaches us whom to call, who is always present to calm us down, who will catch us when we drown. As the Church does not deny the presence of evil spirits, faith teaches that there is Someone more powerful than the monsters that come to us at night.