The Walking on the Water
Then he made his disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray. When it was evening, the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore. Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing, for the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were [completely] astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.
The Healings at Gennesaret
After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret and tied up there. As they were leaving the boat, people immediately recognized him. They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it were healed.
There cannot be a more lively picture of the labor and the continual disappointments of a worldly life than what is here represented by the evangelist of the apostles laboring against contrary winds in the absence of their Divine Master. After Christ had, by an illustrious miracle, fed five thousand men with five barley loaves and two fishes, he obliged his disciples to cross the water before him to Bethsaida while he dismissed the multitude and then retired to a mountain to pray. The disciples, in obedience to his orders, embarked; but having in the midst of the sea the winds became contrary, and they could not bring the ship to the shore. They labored in vain till about the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to their assistance, and when he entered into the ship, the wind ceased, and they soon arrived at the desired landing place.
The world is justly compared to a sea over which all Christians, as disciples of Christ, are obliged to pass to arrive at the haven of eternal beatitude; but without his assistance, they find insuperable difficulties, and, unable to advance towards the desired port, remain every moment in danger of sinking. Such is the case with all those though embarked in the ship of the Catholic Church, yet still lack the company of Jesus by not living according to his spirit and the maxims of his gospel, whose thoughts and desires continually aspire after the possession of the riches, honors, and pleasures of this world; such can never hope to arrive at happiness, whilst the contrary winds raised by their inordinate affections, prevent them from making any advances towards the heavenly port. This will appear evident, when we consider the opposition that exists between the spirit of Christ and the spirit of the world – we may labor at the oar, by some external show of religion or form of piety, but we are never able to advance unless Jesus, by the spirit of humility, self-denial, contempt of this world, and a love of heavenly things, be at the helm.
Worldlings are unwilling to believe that all their work for the joys of this life is no different than rowing against the tide; contrary to faith, as well as experience, they seek for happiness where it is not to be found. The number who make an exterior profession of religion, without attending to the practise of the duties which it inculcates, is greater now than ever.
What then has the sincere Christian to do but to beg the presence of Jesus that under his protection, and by his assistance, he may be enabled to weather the storm? For he cannot expect to sail through the turbulent ocean of this life without meeting contrary winds. From the case of the apostles in this day’s gospel, he may learn not only the difficulties and dangers of a worldly life, but also that even a life of virtue and piety itself is not exempt from many severe trials. Christ ordered his apostles to go on board the ship and cross the water without him, though he foresaw the difficulties and troubles they had to encounter; he did it not only to convince them how necessary his presence was, and how little they could do without him, but also to put their faith and confidence to the trial – although he was physically absent, yet he was present with them in spirit. They rowed and labored, but could not advance, the winds being contrary; he preserved them and prevented the wind from oversetting their vessel. In this condition they remained several hours, when about the fourth watch of the night he appeared walking on the sea; frightened at the sight, they supposed it to have been an apparition, but he soon calmed their fears, and the moment he entered the ship, the storm ceased, and they landed in safety. What an admirable representation of the conduct which God occasionally observes towards his most faithful servants! Sometimes he seems to withdraw himself from them, at least as to any sensible proof of his presence, and leaves them to struggle against the contrary winds of the difficulties and obstacles they meet; though they labor ever so indefatigably, they come to understand how little they can do of themselves, and how absolutely they must depend on his gracious assistance, who, though he may absent himself from them for a time, will return again when they least expect him, and by his appearance calm their fears and apprehensions – in a moment he will command the winds to abate, and guide the vessel safe into the desired port.
This consideration must afford us great comfort amidst interior desolations and darkness of soul, and enable us to bear up against all opposition either from the world or our own corrupt nature. The principal lesson therefore we are to learn from the gospel of this day, is to put our sole confidence in God, and not despond or think ourselves abandoned when we have not a sensible perception of the presence of Christ. He incessantly beholds us, and knows the most proper time when to appear, and say, “It is I: be not afraid.” We must, like the apostles, continue laboring at the oar, to do our best until Christ comes to our assistance; but we must leave the time and manner of his visitation to him. We may earnestly cry out: “Lord save us! Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!” But we must add, “in thine own time, Thy will, not mine, be done.”
Saviour of my soul, behold me in the vast sea of this world directing my course towards the port of everlasting happiness. The winds are contrary, the sea is rough, and with all my labor and toil I cannot advance forward. How can it be otherwise, Lord, since you art absent,and leave me to myself? Come, manifest yourself to me, show the power of your grace – quiet the storms raised by my unruly passions; calm the winds and bid them to cease; say to the sea: ‘Be still.’ Your powerful word can allay the most violent storm; if you appear and enter my vessel, it will soon arrive at the wished-for haven. I place my whole confidence in you, I humbly resign myself to all the dispensations of your blessed will; suffer me not to be lost in the hurry and tumult of worldly affairs, in the too ardent pursuit of the goods of this life; let me not be immoderately concerned about many things, since one thing only is necessary – to love and serve you.
This, my God, is my only affair, to which all others shall be subservient. In loving you, I shall be completely happy, but if I do not love you, I shall be truly miserable. You command me to love you; give me your grace to obey, and then command what you please. You created my heart for yourself; may it never be at rest till it reposes in you, who art the divine fountain of Love. Let then those sweet streams of affection flow upon my soul, that it may be wholly absorbed in the love of thee, my God.
- Father Pacificus Baker. “Saturday Before the 1st Sunday in Lent”. , 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 February 2016. Web. 27 February 2017. <>