THE GHOST BY THE LAKE
It was a dark night over the great Lake of Galilee. The moon, a slice of orange hanging in the sky, hardly illumined our faces. There were six of us, including Peter, in his old green boat. The others were in the other boat manned by Andrew.... Jesus was not with us that night. When the twelve of us got into the boats, he said he wasnít coming, and left in silence towards one of the dark streets coming from the wharf...
Peter: Fellows... this is strange... Why did he stay behind, huh? Why?
Thomas: Jesus is a...a...afraid of the water at n...n...night. Could t...this be the r...r...eason?
James: Nonsense, Thomas! It must be something more serious. Fear of the water, no. Thatís stupidity. Fear, yeah. Jesus is scared. I can see it in his eyes.
Peter: Fear of what, James? Whatís he scared of?
James: Things are getting worse, Peter. The Morenoís being watched each day. The pharisees hate him and are after him. Something smells rotten here....
Peter: What are you talking about? That canít be. Jesus is a very courageous man. Heís shown it. How can you be so sure of what youíre saying?
James: No oneís certain of anything, Peter, anything... Weíre just talking. But you canít deny that heís acting strange today, and heís left us alone...
Thomas: Maybe he r..re..remained to pray. Jesus prays a lot.
Peter: But why would he pray there? No, Thomas, that doesnít explain it...
James: Could he have betrayed us...? He might be joining the other group and hasnít the guts to tell us.
Peter: Why would he do such a thing, red head? Jesus is a very upright person!... Youíre crazy. No, that canít be!
Philip: Iíve got something else in mind... Listen, fellows. I think Jesus is sick and tired of all this... Heís tired of saying that the Kingdom of God is near, that itís coming... although itíll never come. He proclaimed himself a prophet, heís used up all his energy saying that things are heading for change... as you can see, things have remained the same! And then....
Peter: Then what?! What do you mean by that, Philip?
Philip: That one of these days Ė today, for example Ė Jesus will say: ďTo hell with you, bitter world!Ē All these things about justice, the Kingdom of God, even the group, and everything, are baloney!... Then heíll go away, passing through a dark road like he did tonight and weíll never see him again, ever.
Peter: Whatíre you saying? Where the hell did you get that crazy idea, huh?.... Jesus would never do that to us! Heís not what you think!
James: Itís okay, Peter. Heís not so. But why the hell didnít he join us tonight, huh?
All words uttered during the conversation that night pierced through the heart like the cold wind inflating the sails, and stirred the tranquil waters of the lake. On the other boat, Andrew, Judas, Simon and the rest were talking of the same thing, with the same words and asking the same questions. After a while, everyone remained silent... only the increasing murmur of the wind could be heard...
Peter: Hell, will you say something, at least! Iíd rather we have a storm than see all of you mum like youíre dead!
Then, as if in response to Peterís cry, the wind began to jostle the two boats furiously. The clouds started flashing lightning rays and thunder over the lake, previously darkened in the cloudsí dark bosom.
Peter: Damn! I already knew a storm was coming! Get a good hold of the sails, John!
Thomas: W..wh..whatís all this?
Peter: What else, Thomas! You donít think thereís gonna be a party, do you?
Thomas: Then weíll all d..d...dr..drown....?
James: Yeah, dammit! Weíll all drown! And youíll be the first to drown if you donít shut your big mouth!
Andrew: Hey Peter, let go of the sail a little!... Peter!
Peter: Stay apart a little, dummy! Weíll collide!
The waves, like gigantic mountains, broke over our heads; we were drenched again to the bones. The boat, manned by Andrew, was caught in a whirlwind, and was getting close to ours, spinning furiously like a top.
Peter: Damn you, James! Release that sail some more! Weíll get smashed!
James: Out of here, Thomas!... Hold tight, John!... Harder, címon, harder!
The keel was creaking like a soul in torment. The boats, lifted up by the waves, suddenly crashed down on the watersí surface. While Philip and Nathanael were hastily bailing out the water that entered through the boatís sides, Thomas gave out a terrifying cry, spread his arms and fainted. He fell over the sternís ropes...
James: Thatís one head less!... Hold tight, John!... Careful now, careful....!
James and I tried to control the sail. But then, the wind caused the mast to crack, and it split right down the middle.
Peter: Weíre doomed! Weíll all go down to the bottom of the lake! Thatís why Jesus left us all alone: he knew it! He abandoned us!... Weíll all die!!
When our boat was almost filled with water on all sides, Andrew screamed louder than thunder...
Andrew: Hey, all of you, look over there! Look over there! Toward the shore!!
Philip: Itís a ghost! The ghost of the lake! Itís heading toward us!!
Peter: Whatís that, James? Do you see it too?... And you, John?
James: Of course I do!.... Itís coming here!
Philip: Go away, ghost, go away!!.. Wait a minute, I know of a prayer against ghosts... Let me see, how does it go now... Ah, yes!... ďGhost, Iím telling you, the Lord is with me! Iím telling you, Ghost, the Lord is with me!Ē
James: Donít be silly, Philip!
Walking over the stormy waters of the lake, a white and luminous figure was slowly heading toward our devastated boats. The moon suddenly extinguished its dying light. The sea was a huge dark mouth, all too willing to swallow us all up. Thomas, who had regained consciousness, trembled as he held on to that piece of mast that was left after the split. We were all terrified, and couldnít make out the mysterious shadow... All of a sudden, the ghost spoke...
Jesus: Donít be afraid!... Itís Me!... Itís Me!..
Thomas: And w..w..who is this ďMeĒ?
Philip: Stay away, Ghost, God will not leave me! Stay away. Ghost, God will not leave me! Go away, Ghost, God will not leave me!
Jesus: Hey, guys, Itís Me!.. Donít be afraid!
James: Peter, thatís Jesusí voice. Itís him, itís him!
The waters of the sea grew calm. The wind ceased to blow when we recognized Jesus. Once again, our boats began to sway gently over the waves...
Peter: Jesus, if itís you, tell me to go where you are!..
Jesus: Come, Peter, come!
When he heard the command, Peter jumped from the boat and started to walk over the lake to meet Jesus...
Peter: Look... I can walk over the water!... Look!... Letís see, with one foot!... then with the other foot!... Yippee!... Iím the smartest guy in the entire Capernaum and the whole of Galilee!... Yippee!.. Look at this, guys!
Peter was doing some pirouettes over the waves as he approached Jesus, when, suddenly, a thunder split open the skyís huge dome and the wind began to batter the waters in turmoil... Peter, terrified, began to sink slowly...
Peter: Give me a hand, Moreno!.. Jesus, save me, Iím drowning!... Ahgg...!
Jesus, walking calmly over the waves, went near Peter and held him by the hand...
Jesus: You man of little faith, Peter! Why were you afraid? Why did you get scared?...
Peter: I got scared because I was drowning! I was drowning! Iím drowning... Iím drowning... Iím drown....!!!
Rufina: Peter, Peter, whatís the matter? Youíll wake up all the boys!... Look at how you rolled yourself up into that mat; you rolled up like a snail! Wake up, man!
Peter: Ah... the mast... it was horrible... Ay Rufi, itís you... pff!, what a relief! He saved us, Rufi, he saved us!
Rufina: Take it easy, man. And stop screaming , Ďcuz Grandma Rufa is a light sleeper...
Peter: Ay, Rufi, what a relief... Weíre saved!.. Rufina, tonight I understood everything. Heís the man.
Rufina: What on earth are you talking about?
Peter: Rufi, look, we were on the boat. Then came a terrifying storm. We were so afraid. We were alone. Our sail was broken, and our mast split into two... We all lost our faith. We were doomed, until he came...
Rufina: But, what the hell are you talking about?
Peter: Iím talking about Jesus, Rufi. When I was drowning, he held me by the hand, and saved me. The storm stopped. And the fear was gone too. We were saved.
Rufina: Beautiful, that was very beautiful.... You were having a good time the whole evening, werenít you? And may I know, you rascal, at what time you got back, as I didnít hear you anymore?
Peter: But Rufi, donít you understand? That was a sign! Jesus is the man!
Rufina: What man, Peter? Whatís all this mystery about?
Peter: Listen to me, Rufi. Open your ears well and keep this to yourself only. I think Jesus is the Messiah.
Rufina: What the hell are you talking about? Are you okay?
Peter: Iíve never been so happy in my life! The storm is over, Rufi. And the fear is gone!
Rufina: Donít scream, damn! Look, forget about it, straighten the mat, and go back to sleep. Tomorrow youíll be yourself again.
Peter lay down on the mat. But he sat up again, as if pushed upward by a spring.
Peter: Rufina! What if this isnít a dream? What if itís something else?
Rufina: Of course itís something more than a dream... Itís a nightmare...
Peter: No, Rufi. In all my life, I have never seen such a terrifying storm, such an agitated sea. In my life, I was never so scared, nor did I feel so secure when he took me by the hand... As if this wasnít a dream... Hey, Rufina, are you still there?
Rufina: Of course, Iím here... but my eyes are getting heavy...
Peter: But, are you sure?... Donít you think itís at this moment that weíre dreaming?
Rufina: Listen, Peter. You heard the first crow. Forget all that crap and get some sleep. And let me get some too... Iím groggy...
Peter: Okay, but Iíll continue telling you what happened, tomorrow... and donít tell anyone... I think this isnít a dream... I think....
Rufina: Hmmm... certainly youíll tell me tomorrow.... tomorrow.
Peter closed his eyes and fell asleep again. Later, after many years, he told me everything. Then, he still couldnít tell me what happened that night. But he remembered it so vividly. It was as vivid and warm as Jesusí hand that held him so he would not drown in the troubled waters of the lake.
In the Lake of Galilee, because of its geographical characteristics, sudden storms are so frequent that sometimes they come with the strength of a real hurricane. The fishermen would ordinarily set sail even if it was still dark since the last hours of the night and the first hours of dawn were the best times to find schools of fish. In Galilee, as in any part of the world, the fisherman is an early bird.
Throughout the Bible, the dream appears as a space where God is revealed to people. In telling us about the dreams of those whom God used as instruments to make known his plans, the Scriptures provide a reflection about life that is common in Israel and in the majority of the ancient countries. It was likewise the belief that God could reach out to people and vice-versa, by way of dreams. In the Old Testament, dreams revealing to people Godís wishes for them are significant (Gen 28:10-22 and 37:5-11; Num 12:6-8). We must not interpret them as superstitious or infantile. Even today, they provide us with some truth if we can discern their meaning, as the wise men of Israel advised (Ecl 34:1-8). We are not supposed to believe our dreams to the letter. Rather, we should open our hearts to the endless realities in life. Great experiences within us are as real as what is without. Or as real as a plate of food that we eat, although we are not able to express these experiences in exactly the same manner. The limits of our conscious and unconscious state are likewise difficult to define. It is also possible, by way of the unconscious, to discover some truths, to experience intensely some lasting feelings that include important decision-making.
One must bear in mind that the evangelists used various styles in their writing. Thus, we find in the pages of the gospel historical narrations of the Old Testament, catechetical schemes, accounts based on the stories of the Old Testament, and symbolic accounts... This text about Jesus walking over the water contains a symbolic message. The sea, according to the Jewish mind, was a prison where the devil and the evil spirits, overpowered by God at the beginning of the world, had to go. Among them figured the powerful Leviathan, a monster very dangerous to people. This negative idea about the sea spans the entire Scripture up to the last Biblical book. When the Book of Revelation describes how the world will be in the future, the Kingdom of God, it does not mention the sea (Rev 21:1). Naturally, God has power over all the spirits of the sea, and Leviathan is like a plaything for Him (Job 40:25-32). Jesus possesses this power as well, since God gave it to him. He has given it not to a sage, nor to a theologian, nor to an exorcist, but to a lowly worker. This text, therefore, is the proclamation of Jesus as Godís Messiah. This is exactly what Peter thought.
Like the rest of the disciples, Peter was beginning to see in Jesus the prophet that revived the peopleís hope (faith) in the God of Israel, in the Messiah whose coming was proclaimed for many years. This was for him, as for all the rest, the result of a process: the process of knowing Jesus, understanding his message and above all, committing oneís self to follow him. It is something we obtain not in baptism nor in times of prayer, nor in our community reflections with our brothers and sisters. It is a long process.
(Mt 14:24-33; Mk 6:45-52; Jn 6:15-21)