19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 13, 2017 [Matthew 14:22-33]
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mat 14:31)
Ocean is a gift to humanity. For many of us, ocean means a great variety of seafood, a place to spend our vacation. When we imagine a vast sea with beautiful beach, we are ready to enjoy swimming, snorkeling or diving. However, for millions of fishermen and seafarers, sea simply means life as they depend their lives and their families on the generosity of the sea, the resources it offers, and the works it generates. Unfortunately, the sea is not always merciful. The sea is home to powerful storms and with its giant waves that can even engulf the biggest of ships. With the effects of global warming, massive sea pollution and destructive ways of fishing, it is getting hard to get a good catch. Novelist Ernest Hemingway in his book “The Old Man and the Sea” narrates a life of fisherman who after risking his life to catch a giant fish, brings home nothing but a fishbone as his catch was consumed by other fishes. Majority of fishermen who continue struggling with lingering debt and difficulty to get fuel for their boats, become poorer by the day. These make fishermen and seafarers a perilous profession.
The Sea of Galilee is not a sea at all, but technically a lake. Certainly, it is a lot safer than the open sea, but the Gospels constantly tell us that the lake can be deadly sometimes even to seasoned fishermen like Peter and other apostles. Like Peter and the apostles, Filipino Dominican missionaries to Babuyan group of islands at the northern tip of the Philippines know well what it means to be at the mercy of the ocean. To go to their mission stations, they have to cross a sea strait by a small boat for around 4 to 8 hours. It might be a tiny strait, but it is a wild and dangerous one because it connects to two great seas, the Pacific Ocean on the east and South China Sea or West Philippine Sea on the west. When the sea is rough and the boat is hit and tossed by the giant waves, it is the time when our missionaries and all others in the boat to pray, and perhaps it is their sincerest prayer ever. When at the mercy of the ocean, we begin to realize that what matters most in life is actually life itself, and as only this life that we hold dear, everything else seems to be trivial and passing.
However, there comes the paradox. In the midst of raging ocean, holding on to fragile life, we begin to be closest to the creator of life Himself. The mighty sea washes away those things that stand between us and God. All those things that add layers upon layers to our lives are swept away. As we achieve wealth, physical beauties, educational attainments, physical beauties, possessions and honor, we tend to be full of ourselves, and become more independent from God who grants us those blessings. Like Peter, our faith becomes little, relying too much on ourselves. Then, when the storm comes and we begin to sink, we realize that all those achievements will not save us.
What are those things in our lives that stand between us and God? Are we like Peter, a man of little faith? What are the stormy sea experiences in our lives? How do you encounter God in these stormy sea experience?
Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP