Catholic by Choice

Catholic by Choice


The Christian Vocation and Living in the ‘Fourth Watch of the Night’

As a Deacon in the Catholic Church, I have the joy of proclaiming the Gospel during Holy Mass. The Gospel account two Sundays ago is one of my favorites. It is also one which is familiar – almost too familiar – to most of us. I say “too familiar” because we can tend to simply stop listening when it is proclaimed because we have heard it so often!

We make the mistake of thinking it is only about Peter and the disciples – something distant which happened over two millenia ago. The fact is this story is meant for you and for me – for the here and now! We live much of our daily life in the “fourth watch of the night”, at the time just before daybreak.

Our daily lives seem to be lived in the midst of tumultuous waves of struggle. We are often filled with fear and crippled as a result and unable to see the Lord right there, on the horizon of hope. This story shows us the way to overcome fear through faith. It invites us to live differently, to walk on the waters of daily life by dynamic, living faith:
 
“After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.

“At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”(Gospel of St. Matthew 14: 22-33)

It is important to remember these wonderful Gospel stories within the context. The disciples had just returned from experiencing the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.

They had seen the Lord take what little bread that they had, multiply it, and give it back to them – so that they could feed the very crowd they had suggested be sent away. They knew that he was able to work miracles – and that they had been invited to participate in this extraordinary act of love, by simply giving the little they had.

After it was all over, they even collected up twelve baskets full! Now, He just wanted to pray, to commune with the Father. So He placed them in the boat, which the early Christian Fathers saw as an image of the Church, the new Ark of the New Covenant. It was the “fourth watch of the night”, the last four hours right before dawn.

That “fourth watch” always included the darkest hour. The winds and sea raged and they became horribly afraid. Their fear was so crippling that they did not even recognize Him as He came toward them. They thought that God Incarnate was a “ghost”. “Take Courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” He spoke with such reassurance and tenderness.

How often do we live our lives in the fourth watch of the night? Our fears so cripple us that we are unable to even recognize the Lord, the One who is always there, always coming to guide us on His way. He invites us to respond in faith as well. When we do, faith helps us to overcome our fear and walk into freedom.

That is what we see happening with Peter in this wonderful account. He responded in faith to the voice of His Lord. When he kept his eyes focused on Jesus he was able to do what seemed to be impossible. When he walked by faith, he walked into the freedom that comes from Jesus, the Lord of the winds and the sea.

We live our lives now in Jesus Christ and we are at home in the Boat of the Church. We can always find Him in the fourth watch of the night, if we choose to respond in faith. When we turn our faith into a verb, we too get our “sea legs” as they say in the nautical culture.

We also learn a new way of living- and of loving. Fear simply becomes a field of choice, an occasion for trust. Even in the fourth watch of the night, there is a bridge between fear and freedom, it passes through Jesus who tells all who will fix their eyes upon Him “Take Courage; it is I; Be Not Afraid.”



Advertisement
Comments read comments(4)
post a comment
Al Sowins

posted August 12, 2011 at 9:13 pm


Very nicely written! My Aunt Stella used to say, “Don’t never be ‘fraid of nothin’, ’cause God is on our side. If we show up and if we fight, He will see to it that we win!”



report abuse
 

Robert

posted August 19, 2011 at 6:03 am


Thank you for telling an old story in a new way so as to bless thowe who hear it. I would like to be a Catholic, perhaps some day. I am a Christian who needs to be reminded of Gods love fro me from time to time. WHy?



report abuse
 

Dorothy Gabriel

posted August 22, 2011 at 1:25 am


I love my jesus, he is a miracle working god there is nothing impossible for him, he is always there to help me and my family all the time, thank you jesus and father in heaven for what i am and all the blessings in my life.. praise my lord .. amen…



report abuse
 

debbie ptak

posted September 1, 2011 at 11:46 pm


I really liked this articule deacon keep up the good work.God Bless You Debbie



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Catholic By Choice. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!

posted 5:13:34pm Jul. 09, 2012 | read full post »

Lord, Teach us to Pray: We Live the Way We Love and Love the Way we Pray
By: Deacon Keith Fournier “He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished , one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.  Give us each day ou

posted 10:45:49am Jul. 01, 2012 | read full post »

I am Glad to Be Back at Beliefnet: It is Time to Begin Again
I have not written a column for Beliefnet in a long time. I have been writing a lot - just in other venues. As is the case with all of us, my life just seems to get busier and busier. However, I have not been able to get Beliefnet - and its potential for good - out of my mind or my heart. So, I begi

posted 4:06:55pm Jan. 19, 2012 | read full post »

Pope Enters a Monastery - to Teach us All How to Pray in the ‘Real World’
On Sunday, October 9, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI presided over Second Vespers with the Carthusian monks at Serra San Bruno. From the Chapel of that Carthusian monastery he shared beautiful  insights on silence and prayer which should be considered by all who bear the name Christian. His words brought

posted 10:59:44am Oct. 13, 2011 | read full post »

A Catholic Activist Looks at the US Presidential Campaign of 2012 and the 'Catholic Vote'
After Labor Day, the US Presidential campaign of 2012 will move into high gear. Clearly, this is one of the most important elections of my lifetime.  The economy is in a free fall and the sense of fear in the United States is palpable. A majority of people have lost confidence in our elected leader

posted 12:38:32pm Aug. 23, 2011 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.