“After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)
Being out at sea tossed by the waves with the wind howling all around, the disciples are understandably afraid. Seeing the Lord walking out on the water does not immediately alleviate their fears but instead terrifies them even more as they mistake Jesus for a ghost! Peter wants proof that this man walking on the water towards him is in fact Jesus. Peter wants to trust God. He asks for proof that this really is the Lord. And when Jesus replies “Come,” Peter follows His instruction without hesitation. Peter does trust Him! He trusts in Jesus so much so that he leaves the boat to go out onto the water with the wind whipping around him.
Peter’s faith in leaving the boat is quite strong. But once He takes His eyes off of Christ and sees the wind whipping around him, he begins to panic and sink. Even in his moment of doubt and panic, he still trusts in the Lord’s saving power, “Lord, save me!”
What makes this Gospel reading so relatable to me is that I can feel Peter’s struggle within myself. I feel within me the desire to fully trust, to completely give it up to the Lord without any fear or doubt. Being completely honest, there are times when I am too afraid to even leave the boat, let alone calmly walk on the water. I see myself time and time again giving into the fears and doubts when I take my eyes off Christ and try to reason things out for myself. I want to walk out on that water. But, like Peter, I have a hard time keeping my mind off the winds and waves that surround me.
Peter, despite his flaws, was given the keys to heaven and was the rock upon which Christ built His Church (Matthew 16:17-19). Despite his doubts, despite his denial, despite his fears, he still trusted in the Lord and the Lord saw the faith that was in Peter’s heart. Even though Peter panicked while out on the water, in the midst of that panic he still called out to the Lord. He knew his own trust was weak. But as he felt himself starting to sink, he did not thrash about and try to save himself. Instead, he called out to the Lord who immediately reached out His hand to save him.
We will all face fears and doubts in our life, just as Peter and the disciples did. When we find ourselves scared to leave the boat, we need to pray for help in trusting the Lord. We need to take the leap and jump out of our comfort zone to follow Him when He calls to us. And when we find ourselves faltering and about to sink, we need to realize that God is always there by our side. He will not leave us to drown. Rather than relying on our own understanding to solve the problems and fears we face, we need to call out to God to save us and steady our steps.
God is always there even when we are too wrapped up in fear and doubt to realize it. He knows our hearts, knows our desires, knows our fears. Oh how I would love to have faith so strong that I would leap from the boat and stroll out without the slightest of doubts. Let us pray that our faith might grow and be strengthened so that not only do we jump willingly out of the boat but that we stay on top of the water, eyes focused on Christ, fully trusting in Him despite the winds that rage about us, knowing all the while He will always be there to catch us if we fall.