These are anxious times. Our entire global community faces the challenges of a pandemic. Despite all our efforts, at this point we do not have a means to control or eliminate the threat. Across the world, many are searching for a vaccine and a way of treating the virus. Beyond being on our guard and responding with social distancing and “locking down” our communities we have no effective response. We might slow or contain the virus, but still have to face it.
Such uncertainty creates fear and anxiety. In particular It is a fear of the unknown. Such fear is hard to address. And, we cannot handle it alone. We need some sense that we share the load together. That is the benefit of a community and we are in this together. It is also the benefit of recognizing that somehow, God is part of our journey.
At the center of our Christian faith is that wonder or mystery of the Incarnation, our belief that God loves us so much that God has come to share our humanness in the person of Jesus Christ. As the Gospel of John begins to relate the story and meaning of Jesus, the writer proclaims this truth of our faith. He puts it this way: “The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
As the story unfolds, the Gospel goes further. Relating the account of Jesus’s encounter with a Pharisee named Nicodemus, Jesus tells him: “God so loved the world that his gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”(John 3:16-17) Salvation comes in recognizing that God comes among us and shares in our human story, even in the midst of our questions, uncertainties and the unknowns. In these anxious times, we need to know that our “being in this together” includes God who shares our humanity. The Incarnation tells us how we are saved.
To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow him as our master and teacher, to learn who he is and what he is about. It also means that we reflect this Jesus in our own lives and in doing so become the face of our loving God to all. For this we need faith and trust, as well as the courage to let the spirit of Jesus grow within us, to follow him and to be like him. In the situations of our lives, this is not easy. For it means to step out into the unknown.
Matthew in his Gospel (Matt.14:22-33) captures the disciple Peter facing just this challenge. In so many ways, Peter is us. The Gospel story describes the way Jesus as going to a mountain to pray. The disciples take a boat to the other side of the lake. Caught in a storm, the disciples can’t get the boat to shore. Jesus comes to them on the water. Impetuous Peter shouts to Jesus asking that he be called to join him on the water. Jesus does so and Peter steps out in response. Like any good disciple, Peter sought to do what his master was doing.
As he walks toward Jesus, the Gospel notes that Peter suddenly felt the high winds and he loses his nerve. Filled with fear, he loses faith and begins to sink. Calling out to Jesus, he appeals for help. Jesus reaches out his hand and saves him. Like any good master, Jesus recognizes the challenge that his disciple has in stepping out where he has gone. As any good master as well, Jesus continues to reach out and touch his disciple. He does not desert Peter, but remains the caring and supportive teacher.
In these anxious times, that outreach of Jesus is the care and support we must have. Our faith in the Incarnation of our God in Jesus the Christ is how we are saved. We are never alone.