In this reading Jesus walks on the water and this extraordinary miracle, which seems to be a manifestation of his power, leads to a declaration of faith from the disciples. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
22 Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. 23 After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. 25 In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, 26 and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ 28 It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ 29 ‘Come,’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, 30 but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. 31 Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ 32 And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. 33 The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’
Other readings: 1 Kings 19:9,11-13 Psalm 84 (85) Romans 9:1-5
Three of the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and John, give us an account of Jesus walking on the waters. It is an extraordinary miracle, which seems to be a manifestation of the power of Jesus. The Old Testament reading chosen to accompany this gospel is the revelation of God to Elijah in the ‘sound of a gentle breeze’, the ‘still, small voice’. The evangelists place the story of the walking on the water directly after the multiplication of the loaves. Just as the loaves miracle reminds us of the provision of manna in the desert, the walking on the sea recalls God’s power over the sea at the Exodus.
Matthew’s account of the miracle has two special features. When he attempts to walk on the water, Peter is overcome with doubt and is upheld by Jesus. The gospel in which Peter is entrusted with authority also testifies to his vulnerability. In Matthew’s version too the story ends with a declaration of faith by the disciples. While in Mark’s version they remain confused and questioning, here they declare Jesus to be ‘the Son of God’. Matthew is surely indicating how Christians should understand this story.
In the reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans Paul begins to speak about the situation of his Jewish brothers and sisters. He is profoundly grieved that they have not recognised Jesus as the promised Messiah. In the following sections of the letter Paul will explore and explain what God’s intentions are in relation to the chosen people.
How do I react when my faith is tested by the storms of life?
Do I trust in the helping hand of the Lord when things are difficult?
We pray for confidence and serenity amid the trials of life.
We pray for the Jewish people that they may remain faithful to God’s covenant.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy