"It Is I. Do Not Be Afraid."
Saturday of Week 2 in Eastertide
Acts. 6:1-7 & Jn. 6:16-21
The first reading tells us of the practical steps the apostles took to see to the needs of the early Church. It appeared that the word of God was being neglected while they saw to the physical needs of the people. Obviously they needed more helpers. They decided to choose seven men of good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit to care for the people’s needs, while they gave their attention to prayer and the word of God. The apostles ordained these men as deacons by praying over them and the imposition of hands. This ceremony of praying over candidates for ordination to the diaconate and priesthood and the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon them by the laying on of hands continues to be the heart of the ordination ceremony to this day.
It is worth noting that they were making more conversions in Jerusalem and among them were “a large group of priests.”
The apostles were rowing their boat during a sea storm. The last thing they expected to see was Jesus walking on the water towards them. This is the only time it is recorded in the Gospels that Jesus walked on the water. Just think if He had done this for the crowds, what a tremendous impression He would have made on them. But He chose to perform this feat in the dark only for the benefit of His apostles. It is not surprising that this sight frightened them. To calm their fears Jesus said, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” In St. John's account we are not told that Jesus calmed the sea, but from the other two accounts of this incident we know this is what He did.
What are to learn from this incident? It has to be this consoling truth that wherever Jesus Christ is, the wildest storm becomes a calm. We may be surrounded by problems which seem insurmountable. We feel as if we are in a fragile boat on a stormy sea. Now is the time to call on Jesus' help, knowing that He can calm our fears and bring some peace into our anxious minds. Hasn't experience taught us that Jesus is in every storm? When we look back over our lives there have been times when life has been chaotic, full of turmoil and anxiety, but we've sailed through it safely. How was this possible? Jesus was there with us in that storm and He helped us to weather it.
The apostles in the first reading felt swamped by work and the many demands on their resources. They feared that their efforts would be shipwrecked, so they prayed for guidance. Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, showed the men how to bring calm to the whole situation and seven deacons were appointed to share the workload and ensure that the apostles would not neglect the preaching of the word of God.
I love that story told about St. Francis de Sales. In the country district in which he lived he often observed a farm servant going across a farm yard to draw water from the well. Before she lifted the brimming pail, she always dropped a piece of wood into it. One day he asked her, “Why do you do that?” She looked surprised and answered, “To keep the water from spilling, to keep it steady.” Sometime later he was writing to a friend whose life was in a turmoil. He said to him, “So when your heart is distressed and agitated, place the Cross in the centre of your heart, to keep it steadyl” Those words sum up the lesson of today's Gospel.
Jesus, may we be aware that in every storm of life You are with us. May Your presence bring us peace, serenity and calm.