Miracles always get our attention, but we must remember that miracles are not events unto themselves.
They are signs of a new reality, beyond the conventions of our time and place.
Miracles always point to something else – beyond themselves.
Jesus knew this and often said he could only do what he saw his father do and when ask how he could cure the sick he said that it was only a sign that the kingdom of God had drawn near.
Miracles are certainly not a show of power (it is good to remember the temptation of power that Jesus turned away from in the desert), rather miracles are about surrender of self and a pouring out of God’s grace especially in the signs and wonders that Jesus did.
Miracles, also tell us something about ourselves and our relationship to God and his kingdom.
Last week in the feeding of the multitude we learned about Eucharistic communion, radical compassion and solidarity with those who gathered around Jesus and that we too are to be bread that is broken and shared.
Today we reflect on that to be shared, we sometimes need to leave the safety of the boat.
So Who walks on water?
Matthew's account of Jesus walking on the water follows Mark's account pretty closely.
Both reveal who Jesus is by what he does. What only God can do.
This is an epiphany, an encounter with God in this world.
And in hearing about this epiphany, we are meant to bring other epiphanies to mind as well. Other times God comes to man as in the first reading when God passes before Ezekiel.
And we learn God often comes not as one might expect in billowing thunder clouds, "Elohim" the God of power and magistracy or in a scorching fire or the rumbling earthquake, something grand, terrifying and sublime, but instead God comes quietly and expectantly, in something like the whisper of a passing breeze.
This divine self-revelation is interesting, but what is important is that Ezekiel recognizes God's surprising presence. If he didn't, God would of passed by unnoticed. No encounter would of taken place. Blind to God's presence Ezekiel would of remained alone.
This openness and awareness to recognize God presence is the heart of the matter in all miracle stories.
The disciples after the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 we're told by Jesus to get in the boat and cross over to the opposite shore while he himself sent the crowd away and then went to pray alone. Jesus wanted to clear the air and defuse any false notion.
It was a clear sign to the disciples (who might of wanted to hang out and bask in Jesus' glory) and to the crowd ( who John, in his Gospel, says wanted to make him king) that it was wasn't about his power and his prestige, what he could do. It was all about God's Kingdom come.
In the pre-dawn darkness of the fourth watch a sudden storm overtook the disciples in their boat and they were in grave danger and stricken by fear.
Through the whipping wind, the pouring rain and the churning seas they saw a figure approaching walking on the water. They do not recognize Jesus (they were not thinking of him and since they don't expect to see him - don't) and so this mysterious figure approaching throws them into even greater terror they try out - it is a ghost.
But, Jesus in a voice that cuts through the storm, (imagine how loud that stormy night was).
"Courage, it is I” -.he says – “do not be afraid"
It is I - the self-description of God. What Moses heard on the mountain.
Jesus is telling them that even now in their peril and fear God is present - present in Jesus' own being.
And now Peter sees, but perhaps isn't quite sure for he calls out
"Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water"
If it is you Lord!
Isn't it always the question verbalized or not when encounter God?
We want proof when our encounter with The Lord doesn't meet our expectation and we fail to recognize God's presence. Peter needs proof.
"come" Jesus invites.
If you need proof step into the sea Jesus seems to be saying.
Peter jumps into the sea and for a short jubilant time walks on the water towards Jesus.
But quickly, Peter takes his eyes (and heart and mind) off of Jesus.
Peter loses his bearing. He realizes what he has gotten himself into, as he feels, the now very real storm that surrounds him. As, Peter's spirit sinks so does his body.
And he cries out "Lord, save me"
How often have these words been spoken?
And just as often, Jesus immediately reaches out and grasps Peter's hand saves him from going under and they return to the boat.
It is important to take a moment to recognize the fact that Jesus is found, not in the safety of the boat, but out there, in the turbulence of the storm.
To reach Jesus, Peter had to leave the relative safety of the boat.
In faith (even if it was little faith) Peter needed to take a chance, he needed to step over the edge and that is a good thing, but he also found out, as we all do, that we cannot walk on water.
It is not who we are. But, we can trust that with the help of The Lord anything is possible.
Now with Jesus and the rescued Peter back in the boat the storm is stilled by Jesus' command. Think of the God of Genesis stilling the primordial waters.
In Mark's version the disciples are amazed, but don't connect the dots, they do not understand the meaning of the feeding of the multitude nor Jesus' coming on the water nor the stilling of the storm. They are not as sharp as Ezekiel.
In Matthew they are brighter and having just wittiness Jesus's command of nature and following the lead of Peter, proclaim the truth they had experienced "truly you are the Son of God"
Every miracle Jesus did was an opportunity to enlightened minds and hearts revealing the new reality that could not only calm storms and move mountains, but heal the sick, restore sight, bring joy to the oppressed, comfort to those in need and even raise the dead. These signs and wonders of Jesus changed the world and continue to transform believers.
Last week we learn to be eucharistic people, who out of joyful compassion and profound solidarity are to be broken, given and shared with others. And now we are shown that to do this we must often, if not always, leave the security of the boat, wither it be our attitudes, our life style, our comfort zone or even our parish pews. We must get up and go!
We must be willing to step into the storm, the uncertainties and complexities of life, to find God or better still, allow ourselves to be found by God in the din or the stillness, either way always trusting that how many times Jesus says "come" he will always reach out his hand to help us reach him.