Walkino on Water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)
When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. John 6:19-21
In my RCIA class the other night we were learning about the Eucharist. The Priest was going through John chapter 6 with the class. Many of us know and have read this passage, but the Priest who was teaching shed new light on this passage for me. He did what a Priest should do, like a Good Shepherd, he revealed our God and opened our eyes even more. Many of you may have already seen and known these things I am about to write, but I write them as I feel compelled to share them with the hopes that you remember how great God is in the trying times we live in.
The passage begins with a multitude of hungry people coming to see Jesus. Jesus responds with a question for his disciples;
“Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” John 6:5
Scripture tells us that Jesus said this to test them. “Why would Jesus want to test them?“, The Priest asked us. One adept student answered, “He wants to know if they know who He is yet?” Jesus who has been with the disciples healing the sick and the blind and casting out demons wants to know right here, if they recognize him for who He is, and if they do, how big do they think He is?
We can know by the response, that some know him a little more than others, some have progressed further than others. Thomas tells him what two hundred denari won’t do. Andrew, responds about a boy with five barely loaves and two fish. Andrew perhaps has no idea what Jesus will do, but he brings his meager observation to Jesus and let’s Jesus do what He will do. Thomas, brings him the worldly response. Isn’t this just like all of us? Some are a little more progressed in trust and knowing God than others; Some are more illuminated about who He is than others. But neither disciple in this story realizes the greatness that is about to be. They are looking at the circumstance that looms large. They receive a giant miracle.
The feeding of the 5000 ends with the people wanting to force Jesus to be their king. Isn’t that just like us? God, the gentleman, who doesn’t force Himself on us, reveals something of Himself, and we begin wanting to force Him into our ways. The People of God have never been great at choosing what is good for them. It is why we do need the Mystical Body with Christ as the head. For Jesus knows the kind of earthly King they want is not what their souls need. It would not heal them the way they need to be healed.
Smack in the middle of this chapter, in between the feeding of the 5000 and the Bread of Life discourse, John tells us of the miracle of Jesus walking on water;
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. John 6:16-21
Why did Jesus perform this miracle here? There are two things the Priest who was teaching us pointed out. The first is of course that Jesus is defying nature by walking on water. But the second is more subtle. Immediately the boat reach the land towards which they were going. This happened because they tried to get Jesus into the boat. Later the people realize Jesus wasn’t in the boat and wonder how he got to the other side. But Jesus did two things here, he had control of space, walking on water, and he sped up time, so they couldn’t get Him in the boat.
He is Lord of space and time. He is outside of them and He is held within them. He can control nature. When I think of the immensity of that, I feel small and humbled that I have ever questioned God’s timing on anything. And it made me to understand so much more how he is definitely hidden in that tiny host on the altar that we can receive everyday. His nature in that accident of bread and wine. He is great enough and humble enough to do that for us.
The latter part of John 6 is the Bread of Life Discourse. He chastises the people, imploring them to believe;
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us, then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” John 6:25 – 34
He tells them that they came because of their fill of loaves and then they ask for signs. Jesus isn’t looking for us to believe because of signs and worldly fill. He wants for us to look for Him regardless of signs and wonders. Jesus brought us the path to perfect love. It can involve signs and wonders, and abundance, but my friends, that is not why we should believe. And when we look for signs and wonders, in the way that we think things will play out, we may miss what God is actually doing. Lord knows, even the Apostles, who were told everything in advance, missed the destination of the Cross as the goal to resurrection. He is showing us how to do the Will of the Father. Only one Apostle stood beneath the Cross. Perhaps only one was needed for the mission of our cooperation with God to be accomplished. I don’t know.
But I do know, we’re on a precipice in time. We see the signs of the times. And yet, do we? Are we thinking big enough about God?
I believe their will be an illumination of conscience. I don’t know if it will be at a specific moment in time because I actually see it happening everyday. I pray for it to happen, and then my friends, I actually see it happen, with different individuals at different times. I know some people have very specific ideas of how this will go. And perhaps it will go that way. But perhaps, the God who knows us, and knows that we are all in different places, has set this illumination in motion already. Perhaps individual consciences are being awakened right now. I am being contacted almost daily by people from all walks of life who want to become Catholic. Perhaps this will all culminate with a specific moment in time in a blaze of glory. The Cross of course was a specific moment in time. But all of Salvation History is held within that Sacrifice, now, at each Mass. The representation of Calvary is the collision of space and time, here, now, in our present moment. So do not be discouraged if things aren’t happening the way you think they should or in the time you think they should. Jesus is Lord of time and space. And He knows what he is doing.
Many who have contacted me have asked me for reassurance that the church will stand as they see their Protestant churches fall to division and immorality. I always reassure them that the church will stand, because we were promised that it will, but I have no idea what that looks like. It may look like death and resurrection. I believe it will be a ride of suffering, so cling to love, not signs and wonders.
In my prayer of late, I just here, Ephphatha, that is, “be opened”. My friends, be opened to whatever God wills. Pay attention and stay awake. And don’t put God in a box of how you think things should get done. The people who did that in the past ended up walking away from the bread of life and returning to their former sin. And they did this after seeing and experiencing signs and wonders. For us, we must focus on love and what that looks like, not the signs and wonders. Love is Lord of space and time.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68