This past Christmas break, I had the blessing of going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with my seminary. There, the Scriptures came alive, as I saw and experienced the places where Jesus taught, walked, performed miracles, died, and rose from the dead.
We visited many holy locations, including Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, but one of my favorites was the Sea of Galilee. Not only was it a lush, sanctified, and tranquil area, but being there drew me deep into the meaning of the call to authentic discipleship and realization of how important faith and trust in God are for all Christians, no matter their vocation.
The Sea of Galilee — which is really a large lake in between surrounding hills, valleys and small mountains — is the place where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their boats, family and nets behind and follow after Him to become “fishers of men.” Although they likely didn’t understand everything at that precise moment or where they would end up, in confidence the first Apostles abandoned their careers and livelihood to embark on an incredible journey with Jesus. And it happened at the place where I was standing.
This ancient body of fresh water (called a sea) was also the site of many miracles where Jesus revealed His Divinity and power over nature when He calmed the storms (Mt 8:23-27) and walked on water (Mk 6:45-52). A fun fact that I learned was that because of a broad valley opening up on one side of the Sea of Galilee, blustery winds would sometimes funnel in like a vortex, causing the still lake to become rough like the ocean and filled with waves, thus making the Gospel stories credible.
It was there that the Son of God told the fisherman to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). This line sums up the goal of discipleship. If we trust Jesus and push ourselves past our uncertainties and own understanding — out from the shallow end into where it is dark and scary — we can experience significant growth, evangelize the world and lead people into a relationship with Christ and ultimately to Heaven.
One night at the guesthouse chapel by the Sea of Galilee, I meditated on an astounding mosaic depiction of Jesus rescuing Peter, who was beginning to sink as a result of taking his eyes off Jesus when walking on water (Mt 14:22-33). It struck me how this scene seemed to perfectly depict the cycle of the Christian life through the varying seasons of faith, doubt, trust, and despair.
Sometimes we are filled with doubts like Peter, not believing that Jesus is present or calling us, and we cannot see because of the stormy conditions of life that obstruct our vision. Then with faith, we hear Jesus invite us to have no fear and to “come,” and we courageously step out of the boat — and out of our comfort zones — onto the turbulent waters. Like Peter, we can do the impossible when we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, walking closer towards Him despite the difficulties that seem to overwhelm us.
But since we are human and are inclined to sin, at times, we inevitably take our gaze off of Jesus by relying on our selves, lacking gratitude, or not trusting God, letting the dread of the waves and worries of drowning in sin or hardships get the best of us. Yet, when we cry out with Peter, “Lord save me,” Christ reaches out and grasps our hands — specifically through the Sacrament of Confession — to save us from Spiritually sinking. He then chastises us, saying, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” but lovingly brings us back safely into the boat, and into His heart. There we remain in close relation with Him and hopefully begin to grow and learn not to doubt the next time He calls us. We don’t have to fear because God is always with us, as He says through the prophet Isaiah, “When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Is 43:2).
Early the next morning, after my Divinely inspired insights the night before, I walked out near the shores of the Sea of Galilee. I was blessed to see the most astounding sunrise, which further confirmed my thoughts on discipleship. It happened unusually fast, and when the sun broke over the horizon, it gave forth a beautiful glow of tangerine orange and completed God’s painting of the perfect sky. I not only was blown away by the majesty and peace of the moment, but also recognized that after every storm, the sun does come out again.
In life, we will have difficulties and many storms, but when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we can walk on water. And when we do fall, just as the sun begins every morning, we too can cling to the Lord, rise, and start over. Then we can fulfill our true call of being Christ’s disciples to change the world.
Anchor columnist John Garabedian is a seminarian studying for the Diocese of Fall River, and is a big Red Sox and Patriots fan. Being a former college baseball player and graphic designer, he enjoys using athletics and art as a way to lead people to God and the Catholic faith.