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August 22, 2021

Homily for the Ninth Sunday of Matthew - Courage in the Midst of Difficulties (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Homily for the Ninth Sunday of Matthew (14:22-34)

Courage in the Midst of Difficulties

Christ, after the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves, ascended the mountain to pray, and the Disciples boarded the ship to go to the opposite shore of the lake, namely Gennesaret. A great storm broke out, the wind was against them and the ship was tormented by the waves. In the meantime it was getting dark and darkness had prevailed. During the fourth watch of the night, that is, the dawn, Christ went to them, walking on the sea, and said to them, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid" (Matt. 9:27).

What should be noted here is that Christ is walking on the sea. Christ was perfect God and perfect man, in His person the divine and the human nature are united. But when human nature acted, it acted in communion with the divine nature, and when divine nature acted, it acted in communion with human nature. Thus, Christ walking on the sea was not something magical or the result of some technique, but the result of His God-manhood.

Also, the other thing to notice is that when the Disciples were frightened, Christ cried out, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." With these words He gave them courage and banished the fear that had overwhelmed them. Fear is a frightening situation in our lives and comes from various causes, namely from an uncertain future, from death, from diseases, from loneliness, from the abandonment of people, from various natural events, such as earthquakes, floods, social unrest, hunger, unemployment and generally any difficult situation that causes uncertainty. Man is a weak being and it is natural to be afraid of all these.

But Christ gives courage with His presence to the Disciples. It is not a psychological event, but an energy of God that enters into the existence of man. Man feels that together with Christ he can overcome all difficulties. The Apostle Paul declares: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). This explains the fearless mind and courage of the martyrs who walked with faith and love towards martyrdom. One is surprised when one reads the lives of the martyrs and the terrible tortures they suffered and endured. They were led to martyrdom as if they were going to a festival. The same happened to the holy ascetics, the hermits who lived in caves and deserted places, praising and glorifying God.

The sacred Theophylact interprets the current Gospel reading in a reductive way. He writes that the ship is the earth, the waves are the life that is disturbed by the evil spirits, the night is the ignorance of God. That is, after the fall of Adam man acted from the devil and fell into the ignorance of God. The fact that Christ came at the fourth watch of the night, which is between 3 and 6 o'clock in the morning, during which the fourth shift of soldiers guarded the watchtower, means that mankind, before Christ came, was in darkness. Thus, the first watch is the covenant of God with Abraham, the second watch is the law of Moses, the third watch is the preaching of the Prophets, and the fourth watch is the coming of Christ at the end of the ages. And Christ saved those who were shaken, after entering the ship, that is, on earth, He lived with us, so that we might know Him as God and worship Him.

But this storm also takes place in our lives by the various temptations we face. Huge waves torment the ship of our lives, tribulations, sorrows, weaknesses, falls, contempt, slander from people and much more. Christ, however, is on a mountain, watching over us and intervening at a time when all our hope is lost. He walks on the stormy sea, illuminates the darkness of despair and urges us to eliminate fear and gain courage. He tells us: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Thus, in the Church we have the ability to overcome all the difficulties we face in our lives, to overcome in Christ the problems that afflict us, to be filled with faith, optimism, hope and courage.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.