Subduing our Fears
Our Lord Jesus Christ is both Man and God. Limited in space and time in his earthly showing He nonetheless remained and remains unbounded and infinite in power as Lord over all Creation, Pantocrator. Usually his divine power was not exercised over nature during his earthly life for in the affairs of men this was rarely necessary, health being the more important need to be met. Nevertheless, here we see Christ walking on the waves of the sea as if dry land; walking toward the disciples’ boat through the storm. When He gets into the boat all is calm. Why did He do this?
Maybe the disciples were afraid of the storm. But these were fisherman well used to the sometimes erratic weather on the Sea of Galilee. If they were afraid then there fear was the greater on account of seeing their Lord and Master walking towards them on the surface of the waves! He says:- “It is I, do not be afraid.” St. John Chrysostom says on this verse:-
“This word loosed him from fear and provided him courage. For as they knew Him not by sight because of his paradoxical walk and because of the time, He makes Himself known by his voice.”
It is the recognition of Jesus in the midst of the storm that calms the fears of the disciples. With Jesus around there is no need to fear. St. Peter is now emboldened to seek to come to Christ, himself walking on the sea, yet he does not presume. He asks Christ to bid him to come … and He does. So long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus he is OK. He walks. But Peter is not yet perfected in his faith. The storm gets to him again. He takes his eyes off Jesus and he starts to sink. Coming to his senses he cries out to Jesus to save him and of course He does, holding him up in his strong hands.
We can learn such a lot from this story as to how we deal with our fears. All of us have fears from time to time. Sometimes we can know what is making us frightened. That might be the first step in dealing with the fear. Some unfortunate souls, however, spend their whole lives in perpetual anxiety. It is often impossible for them to discover what is making them anxious. There is hope though for all who fear with named or unnamed fears. That hope is Christ. St. John in his First Letter explains how this is so:-
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in 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, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19)
“Perfect Love casts out fear.” Christ is Perfect Love. This then is how our fears our calmed … by and in the Presence of Christ. When we are afraid, when we are disturbed by the storm inside us or outside us we need to trust Christ and place our hand is His. Deliverance from our fears however does not happen immediately. We need to persevere in our faith and keep coming back to Christ and fixing our eyes upon him. Initially this is not second nature to us. We need to remind ourselves to do this but eventually we learn through experience that our Lord is always there ready to help. At this point our closeness to Christ will not need renewed resolved from us. The final victory of course belongs to Our Lord. When we are perfected in faith we shall even then begin to live fully in the world to come where even death itself shall be destroyed. The Mother of God and the saints have already entered this promise and this life. We also can do this and if our faith and love be great, even within this life.