Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
O God, give your judgement to the king,
to a king’s son your justice,
that he may judge your people in justice
and your poor in right judgement.
The kings of Tarshish and the sea coasts
shall pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring him gifts.
Before him all kings shall fall prostrate,
all nations shall serve him.
For he shall save the poor when they cry
and the needy who are helpless.
He will have pity on the weak
and save the lives of the poor.
Immediately, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and Jesus was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
The life of an individual is often pictured as a journey (well-illustrated in books like Pilgrim’s Progress; The Exodus or The Odyssey), or alternatively as a voyage (because driven by forces more powerful than ourselves, like wind and wave.) We sail upon a rippling surface of events. When things go well, we feel the vibrant joy of movement, of being alive and going somewhere, like those experienced sailors, the apostles, on their way home from fishing in the lake of Galilee.
But life is not all plain sailing. In today’s Gospel story , a sudden gale blew up, tossing their boat and putting their lives in danger. Our own life-voyage can have its share of storms, anxieties, problems and pressures of various kinds. An unforeseen turn of events, a sudden illness, the break-up of a relationship, can throuw us into crisis. Are we going to make it through to the far shore or not? Many find it hard to stay afloat, bewildered and confused by the rapidly changing times, ill-at-ease in their relationships, discontented and insecure in themselves. At times like that, we are like those frightened apostles in the storm. We are those sailors, tossing about in the waves.
Various remedies are suggested, like medications for sea-sickness! Some will suggest we take a long quiet rest, a change of occupation, get psychiatric help or look for counselling, a course of Yoga or Transcendental Meditation, or attend charismatic prayer meetings. Each remedy has its own advantages, but what better support can be found in times of stress than an understanding friend? Today’s story suggests that our first and most constant recourse should be none other than Christ himself.
We cannot expect to be immune from the hardships and problems that are faced by all our fellow-voyagers in this life. Indeed, Christ himself shared fully in all of these anxieties, being tested in all things just as we are. If we imagine our Church as a boat (in which there are no idle passengers, but all are needed to row!), we have as destination the safe harbour of eternal life. With the compass of faith, and Christ himself as our unseen captain of the ship, that harbour will be reached. In the meantime, though tossed about by circumstances, he tells us: "Courage! Do not be afraid, o ye of little faith!'
The gospels often show Jesus at prayer. Immediately after the feeding of the large crowd of people, Jesus went off up the hillside to pray. But while he went off alone, his prayer did not remove him from the troubles of this world. It would seem that prayer made him still more responsive to the needs and struggles of others. As he was praying in the hills, Jesus thought of his frightened friends who were worn out with rowing across the stormy lake. So he left off praying and came to their help, telling them to take heart, "Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid."
While Jesus stayed in prayerful communion with God he also kept touch with people in their need. This also applies to ourselves. In prayer, we are aware of God's presence, attuned to the Lord who is within us, but this can prompt us to think about the needs of of others, to feel with them and for them. This is not surprising. The One whom we contact in prayer is full of love for others, so as often as we talk to him he reminds us to be concerned for others. In many cases our prayer tends to be intercessory prayer, for ourselves and others. Genuine prayer deepens our communion with Christ, but it can also broaden our concern, especially for those who are struggling with the storms of life.