Friends, how desperately we often want perfection! We want our looks, our lives, reputations, children, friends, Church, and jobs to be so perfect that we are caught up in the pursuit of perfection and not God. Could this be the temptation of the disciples in the boat? Perhaps the evidence stirs us in the face as we see them frightened of the reality of Christ. The Christ that comes to them doesn’t fit neatly into their construct, their category, and their perception of him. He walks on the sea when they expected him to distance himself from the sea that is everything but perfect, and definitely, “not of God.” In Matthew’s Gospel, the sea is symbolic, representing all that stands opposed to Christ. Surprisingly, Christ doesn’t distance himself from the sea. He walks on it. This could mean two things. One, It could mean that he has dominion over the sea. In this case, the sea submits to him. Two, it could also mean that he identifies with the sea, despite its opposition to him, to bring order into the sea, that is, his reign. In light of the Economy of Salvation, both reasons seem to be at play here. But the disciples can’t see either. Their pursuit of perfection blinds them. Thus, Christ is mistaken for a ghost.

Perhaps there is so much happening today, in the Church, the world, marriages, and relationships that we can’t see the grace of God at work in them. Why? Because we want the perfect Church, the perfect world, the perfect look, child, spouse, and friend. But isn’t all this God’s creation? Why can’t we just let God do his thing? Can we see that pride, and indeed, the devil is distracting us from seeing the grace of God at work in them so that we can sink as we worry about perfecting them? Matthew’s author portrays Peter as a good example. When Peter focused on Christ and the working of God’s grace, he too walks on the sea. But when he takes his eyes off Christ and begins to focus on the sea, he sinks. This is the point Matthew’s author is making in his Gospel. We aren’t meant to worry and fret about the world. We are meant to allow ourselves to be captured by the mystery of God’s grace at work in a chaotic and messy world represented by the sea. We are meant to behold in wonder the working of God’s grace. So it isn’t about perfection. It is about wonder and worship. And when the disciples finally wondered and worshipped, there was calm in the boat.

Could it be that the trouble around the world today can be tied down to this diagnosis of lack of wonder and worship? Saint Pope John Paul II says it is. According to him, when we get our worship right, we will get our economy, politics, and social life right. And when we don’t, everything falls apart. Again, this is the point Matthew’s author is making. Worship is our primary vocation and mission, not perfection. For when we worship rightly, we grow and mature. Besides, as narrated in today’s Gospel Reading, as the disciples worshipped, they come to recognize who Christ really is. He isn’t a ghost. He is the Son of God. The deliberate use of the title “Son of God” is indicative of Matthew’s thrust. He wants us to know that Christ is the King. He is the one who makes things right, not us. A man I know, Greg realized this when he lost his first wife to divorce and annulment. “She was a great woman,” he later admitted. “But I couldn’t see her. All I saw was her faults. I was focused on fixing her imperfections instead of loving her. I changed and became a better man when I started worshipping God. I learned in worship how to love my second wife for who she is because I realized that is how God loves me. Today, I have a happy family. ”

Image: By Gustave Brion – Gallery 19C, Beverly Hills, California, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77807899

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Fr. Francis Afu is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Armidale, Australia. He is currently undertaking a PhD Research Fellowship in the United States.

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