Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Can you think of a time in your life when you felt tossed about like the disciples in that boat on the sea?
I sure can. I can think of several, actually. But I’ll share just one. I was in my late twenties at the time. I was living in Pittsburgh and in graduate school. My mother, who was only in her late fifties had been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer, and the cancer had shown up in her lymph nodes. She had surgery and then radiation and then chemotherapy. About a year later, she seemed in remission. A bone scan had come back clear. She and my dad took a long-anticipated trip west to see the Grand Canyon and other sites. Dad reported that she was much more tired on that trip than he expected. By fall of that year, it was clear that the cancer had returned. In the course of that year or so between Mom’s diagnosis and the cancer’s return, I had done something of a good job keeping my chin up. I remained hopeful and kept plugging away at my dissertation. But when news came that the cancer had returned, and so quickly, I felt such despair. One day—it was just another day—everything just went dark for me. I felt that all was lost. I was tossing about the sea like those disciples with no idea how I might ever find shore again.
To be human is to have moments like that—to feel utterly lost, alone, afraid. And with no idea how we will every find solid ground again.
The Gospel story for today reminds us that the disciples who had the unfathomable privilege of actually knowing Jesus when he walked the earth were also human, like us. When Jesus sent them out on that boat (while he was away from them) and they experienced the wind and the waves tossing them about, they became truly afraid. They were so afraid that when Jesus showed up they thought he was a ghost! And when Peter stepped out of the boat it was his fear that made him begin to sink into that water.
No matter who we are, we are bound to have dark and terrifying moments—moments when we are convinced that we are done for or lost for good or alone forever. But, it turns out that even in those darkest of moments when fear or despair or chaos or loneliness or failure or lack of faith seem to have the last word, they do not.
Jesus stretches out his hand. Thanks be to God.
- Sue Trollinger