A friend once narrated to me an experience about how he and his family had signed up to go on a cruise and every evening there were different activities and shows on the cruise liner. On one of the evenings, according to him, the in-house cinema on the ship was showing the movie ‘Titanic’ and I nearly fell off my chair hearing this. Imagine cruising on ship and having to watch Titanic. He went on to tell me that from that moment on, he did not enjoy the cruise. I am sure the human imagination can only think of the worst case scenario and that must have been the case with him. I am not one who is too comfortable travelling on a boat because the swaying of the boat makes my stomach go queasy – a manifestation of fear surely.
Given that we find ourselves in the situation of a pandemic, there are many parallels that we can find in the gospel today. One such parallel is the fear of Simon Peter when he felt the force of the wind to the fear of COVID-19 that is all around us. In fact, the fear that we feel in this current situation is as real as the fear of Simon Peter – he was afraid of sinking, we are afraid of being infected.
In the case of Simon Peter, his fear paralysed his faith in Jesus – the moment he took his eyes and mind off Jesus and he felt the force of the wind and started to sink. Jesus then goes on to call him ‘man of little faith’. It is a fact that in situations where fear abounds, it is because faith declines and in a period such as the one we are in, if we are not vigilant and compounded by the fact that we are not able to go to Church like before, the threat of a paralysed faith is real.
During this period, we should not let fear dictate or paralyse us but rather be led by faith. However, in our Catholic Tradition, “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Pope John Paul II). That is why faith and reason are both important to the Catholic life: “Reason brings us faith, and faith allows us to believe things that are beyond our reason… without reason to ground our faith, faith becomes weak”. In the words of St Anselm of Canterbury, “I believe so that I may understand” (credo ut intelligam).
For Simon Peter, walking on water was against reason that that is why his faith floundered when the force of wind hit him. In the life of the Church today, we are traversing a “rough sea” with many fears, anxieties and uncertainties. Among them are questions about when can I come back to Church? When can I receive Holy Communion? Why doesn’t the Church let me in? Indeed, these are questions needing answers but the volatility of the current situation impedes us from knowing.
Simon Peter too must have wondered as to why could he not walk on water but Jesus, in the volatility of the wind, only tells him, ‘Man of little faith, why did you doubt?’ Psalm 119 reads: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” A lamp provides just enough light for us to see the next step ahead of us. There is not knowing what lies even a mile ahead, but yet there is enough light to stay on the path. Our faith in the lamp which is Jesus, is all that matters.
As we slowly thread into some sense of normalcy, let neither fear or doubt paralyse our faith nor should we cloud our vision of Jesus. We need to allow ourselves to be guided by faith and by reason and only then will we discover the truth about ourselves in the light of our faith in Jesus. In Christ, we find our faith and reason. The only armour that we need at this time is the faith to believe, reason to know and courage to grab hold of His hand for… truly, Jesus is the Son of God. Amen.