August 2002

Lake Tiberias, also known as the “Sea of Galilee”, is 21 kilometers in length and 12 in width. But when the wind comes down violently from the Bekáa Valley even the fishermen who are used to navigating in it are afraid. And that night the disciples of Jesus were really afraid: the waves were high and the wind was against them. They could barely control the boat.
And then an unexpected event took place. Jesus, who had remained on land, alone, to pray, suddenly appeared walking on the sea. Already upset by the weather conditions, the Twelve began to cry out, terrified, believing that they were seeing a ghost. It couldn’t possibly be Jesus they were seeing in front of them. Only God, it is written in the book of Job, walks on the sea (See Job 9:8). And then the words of Jesus: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” He got into the boat and the sea became calm. The disciples not only regained peace, but for the first time they recognized him as the “Son of God”: “Truly, you are the Son of God!” (Mt 14:33).

«Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid»

That boat being tossed by the wind and beaten by the waves has become for all times the symbol of the Church. Sooner or later the moment of fear arrives for every Christian traveling through life. Perhaps you too have sometimes found your heart in the midst of a storm; perhaps you felt thrown by an adverse wind in the opposite direction from where you wanted to go; you were afraid that your life or that of your family would be shipwrecked.
Is there anyone who doesn’t go through trials? They can be experiences of failure, poverty, depression, doubt, temptation…. At times, what hurts the most is the suffering of someone close to us: a son dependent on drugs or unable to find his way in life, a husband who is an alcoholic or unemployed, the separation or divorce of people dear to us, elderly or sick parents…. We are also frightened by the materialistic and individualistic society around us, by wars, violence, injustice…. In the face of these situations a doubt can creep in: what ever happened to the love of God? Was it all an illusion? A figment of our imagination?
There is nothing worse than feeling alone in the moment of trial. When there is no one with whom we can share the suffering, no one capable of helping us resolve difficult situations, every suffering seems to be unbearable. Jesus knows it, and that is why he appears on the stormy sea of our life. He comes up to us and once again repeats:

«Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid»

It is I, he seems to say, in this fear of yours: when I was on the cross, when I cried out my abandonment, I, too, was taken by the fear that the Father had abandoned me. It is I in this discouragement you feel: there on the cross, I, too, had the impression that I no longer had the comfort of the Father. Are you confused? So was I, to the point of crying out “why?” Like you, and more than you, I felt alone, doubtful, wounded…. I felt burdened with the suffering of human wickedness…
Jesus really entered into every suffering. He took all our trials on himself, he identified with each one of us. He is beneath all that hurts us, that frightens us. Every pain, every frightening circumstance is a countenance of his. He is Love and love chases away all fear.
Whenever we are assailed by fear, suffocated by suffering, we can recognize the true reality hidden there: it is Jesus who becomes present in our life. It is one of the many faces with which he manifests himself. Let us call him by name: it is You, Jesus forsaken-doubt; it is You, Jesus forsaken-betrayed; it is You, Jesus forsaken-sick. Let’s allow him to get into our “boat”, let’s welcome him, let him enter into our life. And then, let’s continue to live whatever God wants from us, plunging ourselves into loving our neighbor. We will discover that Jesus is always Love. Then we will be able to say, like the disciples: “Truly, you are the Son of God!”
If we embrace him, he will become our peace, our comfort, courage, equilibrium, health, victory. He will be the explanation and solution to everything.

Chiara Lubich

 

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