During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. (Mt. 14:25)
In her reflection this week in Celebration Patricia Sanchez quotes Methodist pastor William Ritter about the experience of the disciples as they see Jesus walking on water.
…the fourth watch of the night…That would be 3:00 in the morning. “Three o’clock,” said Ritter, “is an hour associated with insomniacs, worry and deviants.” If you are unable to sleep, 3:00 a.m. is tossing-and-turning and pacing-the-hall time. If you are waiting for someone to come home, 3:00 a.m. becomes nail-biting time. If the phone rings or there’s a knock on the door at 3:00 a.m., it’s palm-sweating time. If people are still out on the streets at 3:00 a.m., it’s often up-to-no-good time.
For some people, it’s 3:00 a.m. emotionally. Whatever problems we experience, whatever hurt or guilt or grief, it’s always worse in the middle of the night. For others, it’s 3:00 a.m. in an ethical sense.
Temptation, insists Ritter, is incredibly nocturnal, and people may not make the best choices when the rest of the world is sleeping. Still others fear that it is 3:00 a.m. in an ecclesiastical sense. The dwindling numbers in their congregations seem more distressing at 3:00 a.m. The projects yet to be done come haunting, as do the stinging criticisms leveled at you and your efforts from all directions.
For those who are sick, weak or in any way incapacitated, all seems worse at 3:00 a.m. Aches are more acute; sadness is more profound, and the unwillingness to face another day can be overwhelming. For the lonely and for those who grieve for a loved one who has died, 3:00 a.m. makes the pain of separation sharper just as it makes the spirit dull.
Despite all the fears and struggles that make it seem like it is always 3:00 a.m., we look to today’s Gospel and are encouraged. Exactly when it seems that things couldn’t get any worse, Jesus comes to us, walking on the sea of our sadness and discontent. With love and assurance, he says, “Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Then, like Elijah and like the disciples, we will draw courage from his presence – so much courage that like Peter, we dare to venture out into the deep. Like Peter, we may also be struck by fear and start to sink under the exigencies of human existence. Even then, Jesus will be there with outstretched hand, calling forth our faith and keeping us afloat. At times like this we say, “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.”
School is starting and that may be a 3:00 a.m. experience for some people. Know that, as you begin another school year, we will be praying for you – students, teachers, counselors, administrators, parents and guardians. Be open to learning (all of you) and be prepared to have a great school year.
Friday, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption. Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul. This is a Holy Day of Obligation. Mass will be celebrated at 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Have a great week.