A Catholic Monthly Magazine


By Margaret Cullen

By Margaret Cullen

In New Zealand water plays a large part in our lives and we are never short of it. We are a coastal people and live never far from the coast. Even for those living inland rivers and lakes are there for enjoyment and the necessities of life. Our ancestors travelled many miles to this, our land of milk and honey. The Jews under their leader Joshua found their Promised Land, their land of milk and honey, but, more importantly, there was an abundance of water there. The river Jordan and the Sea of Galilee before their eyes were perhaps the signs they needed. They stopped, they stayed.Water graphic

Jesus starts off his ministry with his own baptism by his cousin John, to be named John the Baptist forever after. John’s Baptism was a baptism for repentance. For Jesus, though, it was more than this: it was also a sign from the Father that his time had come, he was receiving the Spirit through the waters of the Jordan and the hands of John. So he shook off the waters of the Jordan, girded his loins and began his ministry. The time acknowledged by the Father and the Spirit had come and he must get on with it.

But it seems he was quite reluctant to start. He said to his mother “my time is not yet come.” Was he waiting for a further sign? Perhaps to provide wine for a wedding feast was not what he had been expecting. It took his mother’s words “They have no wine” to convince him that now really was the time for him to begin his ministry. This is one of the loveliest stories of the Gospels. If, after Jesus died, John looked after Mary, they must have enjoyed talking over such events as these. The water in the waterpots was turned into “the best wine” and the marriage feast was saved.

There is another story involved with water but now the setting is different. Jesus and his disciples withdrew into Galilee and he was obliged to go by way of Samaria. They came to Sichar and they paused at Jacob’s well. Jesus sat down tired; his disciples went to find food. A Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. She queries this as the Jews and Samaritans had little to do with each other, but Jesus breaks down such barriers. Jesus turns the tables on her when she asks why a Jew is asking her, a Samaritan woman, for a drink. “How is this?” she asks.

“I give living water,” replies Jesus, “water that brings eternal life.” The woman then asks for this water and Jesus who never refuses those who ask, rewards her with inner knowledge. “I am the Christ,” he tells her.

What is this “living water” that Jesus gives. We would understand it as grace perhaps, God’s life within us. And, Jesus breaks down another barrier. Here, he speaks to an outcast, a Samaritan, and a woman to boot, and he speaks to her of an inner life. She was indeed a special person for Jesus to have confided in, and here again, water is one of the mediums that he used to help her understand deep spiritual truths.

FishermenFishing provided a living for Peter, Andrew, James and John, but on one particular night when they had caught nothing they must have wondered whether growing grapes for wine or tending sheep would have been a better choice. Luke tells the story of “the great catch.” Jesus finds two boats moored at the edge of the lake. The fishermen were washing their nets and Jesus told Peter to go out into deep water and put down their nets. Peter, never one to hold back, argues over this, “we have toiled all night and caught nothing,” he says, but in spite of his grumble he obeys and they try again. To his surprise and no doubt to the surprise of all around, the nets were full and Peter and Andrew had to get James and John from the other boat to help drag them in.

On another occasion Mark recalls the occasion when Jesus is asleep in the boat and a storm threatens to sink the boat. Jesus had been teaching the people from a boat anchored just off the shore, and he asks his disciples to cross to the other side. They are accompanied by several boats and they cast off. A violent storm arises, waves come crashing over the boat and the apostles wake Jesus. He orders the storm to be still and the storm immediately obeys him and is still. They are all filled with awe. “Who is this that even the sea and winds obey him?”they ask. To them, from being a man tired and asleep on a cushion he has become  God calming the storm.

The third, no less remarkable than the other two, is reported by Matthew. Jesus had just heard of his cousin John’s beheading and “he took ship and withdrew into desert country to be alone.” But the people followed hm by land so when he disembarked he found a great crowd waiting for him. He took pity on them and healed many before sending them home. He then went up on the hillside to be by himself to pray there, “twilight had come and he remained there alone. Meanwhile the ship was halfway across the sea and it was then that they saw Jesus coming towards them walking on the water. The apostles “cried out in fear.” Peter, ever impulsive, said, “If it is you Lord, bid me come to you.” Jesus stretched out his hand but Peter lost courage and began to sink.

walking waterThis “walking on the water” was for what reason? In all these stories the miracles helped people. He healed many and fed them but he walked on the water only for the twelve. First he withdrew “to be alone” in prayer, to contemplate and mourn John’s beheading. He was aware perhaps that his death would be more prolonged than John’s and he was aware that forseeing the dark days after his death his apostles would need all the faith that they could muster. This was a miracle just for them. Knowing of the dark days to come, perhaps a memory of a miracle especially for them, Jesus walking on the water coming towards them, would invoke faith in His divinity that would help them through the difficult times after his death.

Perhaps in our lives also there are times when Jesus walks on the water for us, when we are acutely aware of him in our lives and we realise that he is with us, walking on the water towards us and lifting us up to give us some special grace to help us in our need.


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