Courage – It’s me! Don’t be afraid!

February 5, 2024
Archdiocese of Baltimore

The account of the calming storm is a text full of images and symbols, which apply as much to the difficult conditions of Matthew’s time as to my own personal life experience. I am originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo is in the center of Africa. It has been blessed with different mineral resources, but there are still many kinds of storms: war as various rebel groups continue to operate there, forest fires and floods, violence, and lack of employment are part of our daily lives. The serious storm is the ongoing military conflict that kills millions of innocent civilians. Since the beginning of the war, many people have been displaced, and there have been famines everywhere and diseases of all kinds. I testify that life in all its aspects was not easy for myself and for my family. I remember eating once a day and selling fruits in the public market during vacations so that I could pay my school fees. Even though Congo is still in the storm, all my trust is in God’s grace and love. He is the One who has the final say. I believe, one day, peace will be restored, and people will again live their lives worthily.

Most of the time, when I read this Gospel and meditate upon it, I see myself as Peter who performs an act of bravery by asking Jesus Christ if he can join Him on the raging waters, but his faith does not live up to his aspirations. Fear takes hold of him, and he begins to sink. “Man of little faith!” said Jesus Christ, holding out his hand. Before I used to trust only in my ability and intelligence. My ego was telling me that I was the master of my own life. Maybe I was correct, but after facing many challenges in my life, and seeing how the war takes out the lives of many people, I understood that life without Christ is worthless. Only Christ can calm the storm of one’s life. In my time of difficulties, troubles, confusion, or problems, I am not alone. Christ is there standing next to me consoling me and asking me to fix my eyes on Him alone. Jesus Christ is my hope and my consoler. He is the only One who wipes away my tears when I cry.

It is interesting to note that Peter, the one who doubts, who sinks into the raging sea, who denies Christ, is the one chosen to become the head of our Church. And his task will be “to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the faith!” This reminds me that my faith is based on my personal experience of life, and it is Christ Himself who can ensure peace and joy through the storms of my life. It is Him who calls and chooses His servants. He can take someone from the trash, clean him, and make him a worthy person in people’s eyes. I remember going to school without shoes. This is the reason why I believe that faith is a fight against doubt and fear. I am not called into this life because of my personal qualities, but it is because of Christ’s mercy and love in me. In the midst of my doubt and fear, I always pray emphatically: “Lord, save me! Kyrie Eleison!” I mean, when Jesus is with me, when He takes my hand, I feel safe.

My country is still in extreme turbulence; I believe that Christ is there in the midst of its storms. It is Him who is the source of peace. At certain moments in life, our horizon darkens, because of failures, illnesses, bereavement, family problems, and difficulties of all kinds. But our hope and trust need to be in Christ alone. He is our Savior. In the difficult moments of our lives, He is there suffering and journeying with us. He will never allow us to sink in the storm of this world.

If you are facing challenges, let me tell you that we can be on a boat battered by the waves, under the deadly gusts of the contrary winds; but Christ is there for us. He repeats to us: “Do not be afraid, it is I, behold, I am with you, even to the end of time.” He is always ready to reach out to us to keep us from being swallowed up by the waves. On the evening of Holy Thursday, He had said to his disciples: “I leave you my peace, I give you my peace, but I do not give it to you as the world gives it. Let not your heart be troubled or afraid (Jn. 14:27).” In our daily lives, Christ repeats to us what He said to his apostles on the raging waters: “Courage, it’s me! Don’t be afraid.”

Bienvenu is a seminarian currently on his pastoral year at the Pastorate of St. Charles Borromeo-St. Gabriel in Pikesville. His home parish is the Pastorate of St. Matthew-Blessed Sacrament in Baltimore. Please pray for Bienvenu.