The Gospel Today
Wednesday after Epiphany
Jesus made his disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side toward Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
And when he had taken leave of them,
he went off to the mountain to pray.
When it was evening,
the boat was far out on the sea and he was alone on shore.
Then he saw that they were tossed about while rowing,
for the wind was against them.
About the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
He meant to pass by them.
But when they saw him walking on the sea,
they thought it was a ghost and cried out.
They had all seen him and were terrified.
But at once he spoke with them,
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!”
He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.
They were completely astounded.
They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.
One may always be challenged to keep the faith in times of troubles. But we need to understand that it is a time to prove our loyalty to God despite the difficulties we are experiencing. In doing this we need to be patient, keeping in mind that we will be consoled later on. God allows us to experience desolations in order for us to develop a deeper relationship with Him which we cannot have while in consolation. We are also urged to be prepared, while in consolation, for the coming desolation by being humble and lowering ourselves as much as we can and keeping in mind how weak we are during the time of desolation without God’s grace.
The Romans had divided the night into four parts or watches, each lasts for three hours. The divisions begin at sunset, commonly called evening, then night, followed by cockcrow, and dawn. In our Gospel today, the disciples’ boat was tossed by the wind in the evening and Jesus came to them at the fourth watch of the night or at dawn. I believe that the period between evening and dawn should have been the time for the disciples to prove their faith in Jesus. They had seen and experienced many miracles Jesus had done, and the last before this event was the feeding of the five thousand; and so by that time they had supposedly developed a strong faith in the Lord. Jesus knew what was happening to them and so came to them, but they were frightened and thought that they had seen a ghost.
In one of my hospital apostolates, I had an encounter with a woman whose mother was confined at the ICU. She was an OFW who just arrived in the country, just a few hours before her mother had a stroke. She was so depressed that time and so she told me that she needed to vent to me whatever she was feeling then. And so, I willingly listened to her. The questions which she posed to me were: “Why did God allow me to experience this painful and difficult situation? Why do I need to suffer from all of these?” I also learned from her that she and her mother had been waiting for this vacation. They were planning to visit her siblings in the U.S. to have a family reunion but with this incident, she knew that it would not happen anymore. I just told her to look also in the many times God has blessed her and her family. I advised her to continue praying for her mother and for herself and asked God to grant her the grace to see the Lord in her present experience.
After two months, I met this woman again in the hospital. I learned that her mother died a month ago and she was there in the hospital to process some papers. I asked her she was and she told me that she now had accepted the fact that her mother has gone and life must go on for her. She said that she realized how good God is after that incident. According to her, what she had experienced may seem to be a misfortune but she now had realized that it was also a blessing. There were a lot of things which she shared to me about the blessings given to her and her family in the past, and even at that event. She said that the best realization she had was that God would not forsake us, for she saw how God worked on them amidst their problems and difficulties.
There is a book that I read about why God allows some misfortunes, tragedies or desolations, or whatever you may want to call it, to happen. There are three reasons according to the book. First, it is because we are tepid or lukewarm and negligent in our personal relationship with God; second, to test or to prove ourselves whether we can still praise and serve God not only in good times but more during bad times; third is for us to recognize that before God we are nothing and all that we possess are gifts from God and we cannot do anything without his help. In other words, the third reason teaches to depend solely on God in whatever situation we may be.
God allows things to happen to us for a reason. He allows us to be consoled so that we may gain strength from it. The strength that we have gained from our consolation is the same strength that we will be using when desolations come. Let us not be frightened by the storms that come into our life but instead let us remember always how we have been blessed. Let us not only look at the miracles God is performing in our lives but let us also understand it all and let it be the source of our hope and strength when storms toss our lives.