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What are you afraid of?
In the reading today from the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, we hear the story of our Lord walking on the water in the midst of a storm, coming to His disciples in a boat being tossed by the wind and the waves. They don’t recognize Him until He speaks to them; and then Peter, still not quite sure, says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to walk on the water.” Then he does something amazing. He gets out of the boat, and walks on the water – as long as his eyes are on the Lord. Once he is distracted by the storm around him, he begins to sink, and must be saved by the Lord.
We know what the disciples were afraid of in that story. They were afraid of the storm; and remember, there were experienced fishermen in the boat, who had been in storms before. They were afraid they had seen a ghost – is that really the Lord? Finally, except for Peter, they were afraid to get out of the boat because they were afraid of dying. So: what are you afraid of?
Most of us are afraid of death. We hear about the martyrs, and wonder if we could do what they did, doubting that we can do so. We hear about those who are given a sentence of death, and who are able to meet it peacefully, and wonder if we could do what they did, doubting that we can do so. Really, we fear death because, like the disciples, our faith is weak and imperfect. We sing, “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death”; but like the disciples in the boat, we ask, “Is it really the Lord?” We don’t believe; and so we sink. As long as his eyes remained on the Lord, Peter walked on the water. When we allow ourselves to be distracted by the winds and the waves of the cares of this life, and when we focus on them, and not the Lord, we sink, and are perishing. If we truly believed, we would not fear death. If we truly believed, we would walk confidently by faith. If we truly believed, we could walk on water, if need be.
So: What do we do? We should live in the way we should even if we do not yet have faith sufficient for us to get out of the boat. We may never walk on water; but trust in the love of God, and in His mercy, remembering that with a word He calmed the wind and the waves, and brought His disciples out of the storm. Live as a disciple: praying and fasting, giving, and forgiving; seeking humility, and honoring Christ in everyone you meet – do these things, and we will know that the One walking with us in the midst of the storms of life is truly the Lord; and He will bring us safely to harbor in His kingdom, where death has been conquered, and live does not end.
What are you afraid of? Live as a disciple; trust in God’s love; and there is no reason for us to fear death.