Sign Up for our Free Daily Email Updates / Catholic Spiritual Direction

Sea of Terror and Redemption

August 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Pilgrimage

The Sea of Galilee is an imposing body of water. Coupled with the reality of what happened on its shores, and on the surface of its depths, it is a place that echoes stories of faith and lives transformed. This transformation has come by way of many profound encounters designed by our great God to draw the hearts of his disciples to a faith that would set the world ablaze.

The impact of coming to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, called Lake Kinneret by the locals, was something I could not have prepared myself for. The biblical designation “Sea of Galilee” is much more fitting to its description than the “lake” designation. Coming from the Western U.S., most of our lakes are small and of a size where one can recognize friends and family from shore to shore. The Sea of Galilee has more in common with the Great Lakes than the small lakes I fished as a child.

It helped me to stand on the shores of this vast body of water to understand how a storm on a “lake” like this could be terrifying to those trapped out in the water. Of course, anyone who has been on a small boat in any storm knows that being the highest object in the middle of a vast flat surface is very unnerving when lighting begins to flash all around; and then, if the wind is strong enough to wrestle the vessel out your control, and the waves rise to threaten your buoyancy, well, extreme fear or “terror” is a rational response.

It makes a great deal of sense to hear in chapter 14 of St. Matthew’s gospel that the disciples were haggard. They had been “beaten by the waves” of the night for some time. Suddenly, a man appears walking on the water toward them!

Can you imagine the fear you would feel not knowing exactly who or what this thing was as it approached you? To see him in the dark, there is no doubt that there had to have been some kind of glow about him or a reflection from the moonlight.

As he came closer, was he moving with the swells and thus always on the top of the water as it lifted it high above them? Was he walking on a seemingly level plane toward the boat, with the water parting and rising around him, as with Moses? Whatever the scene, it must have been bone chilling.

The man is now close enough to be recognized and the fear breaks into an innerving revelation of God. Peter’s elation compels him to engage the One he knew controlled the wind and the waves. As he steps out, in spite of his first success to traverse the water, the raging darkness draws his eyes and heart away from Christ and he begins to sink into the violent deep. He cries out in terror, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus stretches out his hand and pulls Peter up. With a gentle rebuke to help Peter remember the necessity of faith for heroic action, Jesus places him in the boat and steps in himself. The howling wind immediately ceases and the dark growl of the deep is silenced to tranquility.

Their right response was to worship him.

Our right response is the same but sometimes we need to taste, touch, and smell what we read about in order to look past the raging storm of this life.

The Lord, in the gift of contemplation, can meet these human needs with his self-revelation as he promised through the pen of St. John. Even so, the Church in her wisdom, understanding the power of pilgrimage, calls us to the purposeful, prayerful tasting, touching, and smelling of the tangible reality of the places where God has walked – even on the water.

In June of 2014, you have an opportunity of a lifetime to do just that. Consider this my invitation to you to come to Israel with me and my wife, Michael Scherschligt (an amazing teacher) and friends new and old.

God bless you as you seek to know and love him. I pray that we will be together next year in Jerusalem.

For information and details contact Trudy Boynton:

office: 913-422-4141

mobile: 816-863-8237

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

please consider supporting our mission with a donation!

  • Jeanette

    When I was in the Holy Land about 5 years ago, a highlight for me was when we experienced sailing on the Sea of Galilee in the ‘Jesus Boat’ or the Sea of Galilee boat. It is a replica of an ancient fishing boat from Jesus’ time. It was a profound experience and many on the boat that day were touched by the Holy Spirit as I witnessed many tears (also myself). I think it is a wonderful experience because you can imagine what it was like for Jesus and the apostles/disciples to look upon that blue sea, to fish there, for Jesus to minister and heal there. It isn’t commercialized so it is so much easier to picture Jesus there. It was a wonderful spiritual experience for me.

    I wish I could join you but my daughter is planning to get married next spring and I’m not sure yet when it will be but it will entail traveling to Germany so I don’t know if I could indulge myself at this time to accompany you. But I do want to travel with you by my prayers!

    • Well, should we talk to your daughter? Maybe we could change the wedding date? 🙂 Congrats by the way!

      • Jeanette

        Thank you! Since I likely can’t go next year, maybe you will have another pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the near future…

    • LizEst

      I was on that boat as well! Yes, a wonderful experience. God bless you, Jeanette.

  • nosidam

    Hi! I am getting excited right along side of you. I am the person who went this past March. Make sure to go to the Magdela Center right by The Jesus Boat museum on the Sea of Galilee. It is a new excavation and has amazing discoveries plus synagogue etc. This was Mary Magdalene’s home town.
    NCR had a whole write up on it.
    I re live my pilgrimage daily.
    It was a great gift from God that I went. My health is not too good. I ended up one night in a Israeli hospital.

    The medical care over there is great! Plus I was able to make up for what I missed and get compensated by the trip insurance. It all worked out.

    Also I was told that when anyone takes a pilgrimage be sure to expect obstacles to arise.
    I am reading your posts and it brings back such wonderful memories. Thank you.

    • So, you coming!?

      • nosidam

        Haha! Would love to go again! No money, health issues and God is planning my life day by day! But I will share your pilgrimage info with others. Let us all pray for each other as we are open to His will! Many blessings!

  • Marg

    Dan I’m nice to hear that you and your wife are going to the Holy land. My husband and I are going as well in Oct 13-29, A group of us from my parish and our priest are going. I,m pumped about making this spiritual journey! God bless you Dan! have a great day!

Skip to toolbar