From Prayer on the Mountain to Encounter on the Sea
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. "It is a ghost," they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter said to him in reply, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, "Truly, you are the Son of God."
The mountain is a place to pray, and it leads to a true encounter with God. How much are we taking advantage of our opportunities to encounter God?
When we acquire into the meaning of the mountain, the first point is of course the general background of mountain symbolism. The mountain is the great place of ascent – not only outward, but also inward ascent; it is a liberation from the burden of everyday life, a breathing in of the pure air of creation; it offers a view of the broad expanse of creation and its beauty; it gives one an inner peak to stand on and an intuitive sense of the Creator. History then adds to all this the experience of the God who speaks, and the experience of the Passion, culminating in the sacrifice of Isaac, in the sacrifice of the lamb that points ahead to the definitive Lamb sacrificed on Mount Calvary. Moses and Elijah were privileged to receive God’s revelation on the mountain, and they are conversing with the One who is God’s Revelation in person. (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth)
Jesus goes up the mountain to pray
We are also called to go up the mountain to pray. We need solitude, space, distance, in order to enter a relationship with God. We can become overwhelmed by noise.
Words often bring with them the illusion of transparency, as though they allowed us to understand everything, control everything, put everything in order. Modernity is talkative because it is proud, unless the converse is true. Is our incessant talking perhaps what makes us proud? (Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise)
We live in a world that speaks much of transparency, but that really tries to hide everything behind a myriad of words. Look at how much legalese does to hide the truth of a legal case.
Jesus appeared on the water
Once he finished, praying, he was able to encounter the disciples in a rather marvelous fashion. He walked on the water, looking for them, calming them, challenging them. He comes to bring a message of hope. So often, we allow our hearts to be overwhelmed. We think that we have lost our way and our meaning. We need to allow Jesus to appear to us on the water. We need to hear his reassuring voice. Where does Jesus appear in your life? It may be during a time of Eucharistic adoration. It could be when you come to Mass. It might be when you are changing a diaper or preparing dinner for your family. It might be when you bite your tongue instead of lashing out against a co-worker.
Lord, save me
What could seem to be a cry of desperation was actually an authentic prayer. Sometimes, God lets every human assurance to be torn away from us so that we can finally learn to trust in him. We like to be in control. We do not like to ask for help. Sometimes, it is forced upon us. A few weeks ago, I was driving home for lunch after Mass. I was already late, so in a bit of a hurry. But I noticed a car in the intersection. As I drove past, I could see that the driver had both arms in the air and that he was trembling. I pulled over and made it out through the intersection to the car. Some other people were also aware of the situation and had called 9-1-1. At first, those of us on the scene thought he was having a stroke. But as he calmed down and was eventually able to unlock the door, he shared with us that he was having a diabetic seizure. It was hard for him to accept help, but he was forced to it.
Sometimes, we also need to be forced to receive help. We are often too proud to reach out and ask for help. The first place we need to do this is in our own prayer. But then, it is good to look around at our life and see in what areas we might need a hand. No one of us is an island and we need the help of others. Just as Peter called out to Jesus, we need to learn to call out to him and to those around us when we need help.
This week, try to establish a mountain for prayer in your own life. It might be a prayer corner in your bedroom. It might be a statue of the Blessed Virgin that you decorate in a special way. It might be a place here at the parish church that you commit to visiting every day. Whatever it is, it needs to be a place where you seek to encounter God continually.