Homily April 22nd, 2023

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter – Jn 6:16-21

Today’s Gospel really sets the stage for us and for the readings for next week, which will give us the Bread of Life discourse. While it’s true that yesterday’s Gospel concerned the multiplication of the loaves, here we have a very intense miracle, perhaps a greater one than we first think. Indeed, Saint Thomas Aquinas points out that there are really three miracles here: first, Christ walks on the sea, second, the storm was quickly calmed (which it seems Aquinas takes from the other walking-on-water miracles), and third, the boat suddenly arrives at the shore where they wanted to be.

Some people, especially modern theologians, love to point out that it seems like there is a contradiction here, because the other miracles of Jesus walking on the water have different elements, and so they disagree with each other; there are, for instance, miracles of Jesus walking on water in Mt 8:23-27, Mt 14:23-34, and Mk 6:45-53. However, Saint John Chrysostom says that these are in fact different miracles; Jesus repeats the same thing because it’s only in this way that it comes to stick in the Apostles’ minds.

So, what are we to make of this particular miracle? The saints have plenty to say about it, but we can consider how Saint Thomas Aquinas and another Christian writer interpreted this. Seeing the miracle, Saint Thomas Aquinas says that “We learn from this that the faithful, in whom Christ is present, put down the swelling pride of this world, tread under their feet its waves of tribulation, and cross quickly to the land of the living: ‘Your good spirit will lead me to land’ (Ps 142:10).” In other words, the miracle is a message for us to reject the pride of the world with humility, to shake off the difficulties of this life, and instead find ourselves in peace with God.

Likewise, Theophylact, a Christian writer from around the year 1050, writes this beautiful commentary, “When either men or devils try to terrify us, let us hear Christ saying, It is I, be not afraid, i.e. I am ever near you, God unchangeable, immovable; let not any false fears destroy your faith in Me. Observe too our Lord did not come when the danger was beginning, but when it was ending. He suffers us to remain in the midst of dangers and tribulations, that we may be proved thereby, and flee for succor to Him Who is able to give us deliverance when we least expect it. When man’s understanding can no longer help him, then the Divine deliverance comes. If we are willing also to receive Christ into the ship, i.e. to live in our hearts, we shall find ourselves immediately in the place, where we wish to be, i.e. heaven.”

Today, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of our Risen Lord, for the grace to remain firm in our faith, even in the midst of difficulties, knowing that after a time of tribulation, we will reach our heavenly home.   

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