Matthew 14:22-33Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid."
Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Who here knows what the Kobayashi Maru is? Anyone? To know the answer means that you are a Trekkie.. that is.. one who enjoys Star Trek and the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and the rest of the gang who go where “no man has gone before.”
The Kobayashi Maru is a star ship that lost power and drifted into Klingon.. that is enemy.. territory. To do nothing to rescue the ship is to condemn the almost 400 passengers to death. To attempt a rescue is to cross into Klingon territory and start a war… the scenario is a no-win—either way the consequences are very severe.
Well this event—in Star Trek world actually happened and it would later become a final test for those training to become star fleet commanders. Therefore, Captain James T. Kirk had to take the test while in the academy. He took it three times, failing the first two, but miraculously passing the third. How? He cheated. He reprogrammed the test so that he could win.. even so.. he later admits that the test is a true no-win scenario.. not designed to find a solution, but instead designed to test the character of the one being tested.
Now.. you don’t have to be a Trekkie to encounter a Kobayashi Maru.. a no win situation. In seminary.. during the second year of pastoral ministry.. the professor presented a pastoral Kobayashi Maru… The scenario went a bit like this… You, as a caring individual desiring to help humankind, encounter a man on a bridge. The bridge is spanning a deep crevice of about one hundred feet with a raging river below. Looking over the edge is enough to give just about anyone a case of the nerves. The man on the bridge is holding about fifty feet of rope and asks you if you will hold one end of it. You being the caring sort agree to do so. He then proceeds to tie the other end of the rope around his waste.. and.. jumps off the bridge…. There.. dangling fifty feet below the bridge and fifty feet above the raging water.. the man yells up at you, “If you let go of the rope, I will die.” You, being the caring, kind person.. What do you do? Do you stand there forever holding the rope? Do you tie him off to the bridge and walk away? Do you yell back down at him, “I hope you can swim,” and let go of the rope? The question in being asked is not trying to find the right answer, its about character: as a priest.. as a Christian.. how do you respond?
Christoph Cardinal Schönborn does a beautiful job of helping us to understand our Gospel reading today… he tells of the hill above Tabga, the place of the miraculous multiplication of the loaves – which is what took place immediately proceeding the events described in today’s Gospel.. and there in the hills above Tabga.. is a cave. Local tradition says that Jesus withdrew into this cave to pray in solitude. From this small grotto, a magnificent view over the entire
is offered. With this, we can well understand the setting of today’s Gospel. While the disciples are already in their boat on the sea, probably traveling homeward in the direction of Capernaum, Jesus takes leave of the many people who have followed him on foot to this lonely place on the seacoast and who, for their part, are now returning home, richly rewarded with what they have heard and received from Jesus. Sea of Gennesaret
But where is Jesus at home? Where does he rest after work is completed? It says he remained there alone on the seacoast and withdrew to the mountain overlooking the sea, “by himself to pray.” If we want to get to know Jesus, then we will best find him where his heart is, where he is at home: in intimate contact with God, whom he calls “Father.” He lives from this center; he draws his power from this source.
On the mountain with God, he nevertheless does not lose sight of his own. He sees how they row with difficulty, for in the meantime one of the frequent severe winds arises that makes the sea so dangerous even today. (Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, My Jesus: Encountering Christ in the Gospel, p. 103-4)
From his vantage point, Jesus sees all of this. In the world as we know it.. it is a Kobayashi Maru.. a no-win scenario. He could swim out there in the stormy waters and try to save them, but would likely drown in the process.. or he could do absolutely nothing and watch the storm eventually overcome the boat and have them drown… but in this no-win situation, what does Jesus solution demonstrate to us about His character?
Some might say that He was like Captain Kirk and cheated.. he reprogrammed the situation so that he could win. I’ll just change the world so that I can walk ON the water and beat the system… But Jesus could not do that. Yes, He was fully God, but He was also fully human – with our same limitations. Therefore, if we can’t reprogram the world around us, then neither could He… He had to work with the same tools and conditions that we work with… yet that didn’t stop Him from walking on the water.
So.. what does this demonstrate to us about Jesus’ character? It demonstrates to us.. not some special character trait.. but instead.. it demonstrates to us Jesus absolute perfection of character. Jesus walking on water is not only about who He is.. it is about who we are not. Does that make sense? Jesus walking on water is not only about who He is – perfect.. it is about who we are not – perfect…. Remember that quote from St. Josemaria last week? “Don’t say, ‘That’s the way I am—its my character.’ Its your lack of character. Esto vir!—Be a man!”…. Now please don’t walk out of here today all worked up saying, “Fr. John says we have a lack of character.. He can kiss my royal behind.” It may have sounded like it, but I didn’t say that… Jesus is the only one to have ever walked on water, so everyone who has ever lived has a lack of character – a lack of perfection – by comparison… except for Peter.. who had it for a minute… which only goes to prove one thing – You can have it too.
Jesus isn’t concerned with beating the Kobayashi Maru.. or the Mariachee Kaboose.. or whatever. He is about showing us a different way—God’s way. Jesus walked upon the water.. not to be a showoff.. and show you that he could do it. Jesus walked upon the water.. to show you.. that you could do it… He walked out on that water and says to you.. just as he said to Peter, “Come.”.. come and experience the ways of God.
You all are probably thinking I’ve lost it today.. talking about walking on water for crying out loud. But think back to the time that Jesus said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.”.. It was then that the Pharisees and Sadducees got all worked up and scripture says, Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”.. And that man got up and walked.
I’ve never turned water into wine, but I know that it is a far sight easier to turn water into wine than it is to overcome my addictions. I’ve never healed a paralytic, but I’m thinking that it would be much simpler than sacrificing myself for a perfect stranger. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never tried to feed 5000+ people at one sitting, but I think I would rather do that than to forgive my enemies and pray for those who hate me.
Walking on water… You can walk on water.. its all the other “little things” that we have so much difficulty with.. but again.. Jesus says to us, “Come.. and I will show you how.”.. Its not that you can’t.. its just a matter of being bold enough.. and courageous enough.. to step out of the dang boat.
Jesus came to show us another way.. God’s way. So, step out of that boat and try His way.. and know with confidence that if you fail he will be there to take your hand and save you – not so that you can tie that rope around your waste and jump off the bridge and tell Him, “Its all up to you now.” – He’ll save you.. so that you can begin again… so that you can begin again to be perfect as He is perfect.
Let us pray… Father of love, hear our prayer. Help us to know Your Will and to do it with courage and faith. Accept our offering of ourselves, all our thoughts, words, deeds, and sufferings. May our lives be spent giving You glory. Give us the strength to follow Your call, so that Your Truth may live in our hearts and bring peace to us and to those I meet, for we believe in Your Love. Amen.