In last week’s Gospel, by feeding the 5,000, Jesus taught his disciples to be bold and generous rather than anxious and cautious. The lesson continues in the story we hear today. Like Elijah in the first reading, hiding in the cave on the mountain, the disciples, far out on the lake, with the wind and the waves against them, are alone and afraid. Jesus shows that he has no fear of the elements by coming to them across the lake. Blinded by their fear, they don’t recognise their friend and teacher until he calls out ‘Courage! It is I. Do not be afraid’. Peter, as usual, is the first to get the message, and is so enthusiastic that he invites Jesus to show his power by sharing it with him, ‘Tell me to come to you across the water.’ With his usual bravado, Peter steps out across the lake, but then he feels again the power of the wind and his new-found confidence evaporates. When he begins to sink, he calls out for Jesus to save him and immediately the hand of his master holds him and brings him safely back to the boat.
We are often struggling in life, battling against strong winds and heavy seas. We are trying to make a difference in our own lives and in the lives of our families and our communities. Perhaps most of the time, we have enough courage to get on with what needs to be done. But sometimes we let the noise and power of the wind get to us. We become afraid of failing, afraid of letting people down, afraid of getting hurt. We start to think that things are not getting any better, that our efforts are not good enough, that we are in danger of ‘going under’. Fear captures our mind and heart and hides God’s presence from us.
That’s when we need to shut out the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves, to listen for the gentle sound of Jesus saying ‘Don’t be afraid’ and to stretch out our hand for him to hold and steady us. The greatest obstacle to faith is not unbelief but fear, and the cure for it is to focus on the Lord who is always there to give us courage.