By Fr. Frank J. Timar, MSC
Some people joke about it, but Matthew, the tax-collector-turned evangelist, wrote about the time Jesus walked on water one stormy night. If that wasn’t enough to perk our curiosity, Peter sees this remarkable sight and asks permission to come to Jesus walking on the raging water. He steps out of the boat and begins to walk toward Jesus.This is a story of faith and fear. Peter always was an impetuous person, and this certainly proves it. But when he realized what he was doing, he grew fearful and began to sink. Jesus reached out to him and lead him back to the boat. The story has a happy ending. The storm ceased and the disciples confessed their faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
This story is not about raging storms or boats on the verge of sinking. It was originally written for a people who were having a hard time. They were trying to follow the Lord, but they were being persecuted for their faith. Everything seemed to be going against them.
We are experiencing the same happening today. Obeying Jesus and following in His footsteps in our world is a daunting task. Our best efforts often seem to be of no avail. Jesus reassures us, “Do not be afraid!” We don’t always recognize Him. At times, we are like Peter. Our faith is strong, and it seems that we could walk on water. At other times, our fear is stronger than our faith, and it seems we will surely sink.
If we look at this story in this way, it ceases to be an ancient tale and becomes a modern parable. We no longer see Peter trying to walk on water. Instead, we see ourselves, torn between our faith and our fears. Some days, we truly believe in Jesus. He is real to us and is with us. His love will finally conquer the world and peace will prevail. We believe that and are ready to stake our lives on it. But there are other days when the only thing that seems real is trouble. We are surrounded by it, and we waver between faith and fear.
We find that human life is hard and often tragic. Evil is not only possible but is happening all over this world. But see what happened to Peter when he realized that he was about to be swallowed by the waves. He cried out for help. And Jesus saved him. Great faith grows in the very midst of doubt and despair. When Jesus was arrested, Peter denied having any knowledge of Jesus, yet, a few days later, he became the rock Jesus saw in him. This story is repeated all through the Bible.
In easy times, faith seems rather optional. We can take it or leave it. It doesn’t seem to matter much either way. But there are other times when faith is imperative. We must believe in something, or give up and sink in despair. Peter could have stayed in the relative safety of the boat, but that is not faith. Faith does not mean sitting and waiting in the boat. Instead, he takes a leap of faith and risks his life to learn of his own weakness and the mighty power of Jesus. When he started to sink, Peter didn’t try to swim back to the boat or call to the other disciples to throw him a lifeline. He called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!”
Please keep all those affected by the terrible flooding in Texas and South Asia in your prayers.