“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. (Mt 14:26-29).
This is one of my favorite Gospel stories. Yes, Peter quickly started to sink, but for that brief moment…
Life is a struggle. Challenges, fears, trials, and conflicts pound at us like turbulent waves. Do we allow ourselves to be paralyzed by our fears and begin to sink because of the weight of the pounding; or do we keep our eyes on Jesus who is already present in the midst of our storms?
In many a top ten list of fears, I would guarantee speaking in public consistently makes the top three. This is an area I have struggled with on and off again over the years. One incident happened about six years ago as I had the opportunity to share my first reflection during my acolyte year of formation for the permanent deaconate. I must have prepared for three to five hours, writing and rewriting well into the wee hours of the morning the night before. Just before the morning liturgy, our director of formation informed me that there had been a last-minute change of plans and we were going to have different readings than I had planned for. He offered to give the reflection in my place, as well as gave me the option to continue and incorporate what I had planned into the new readings.
I chose to remain on course to offer the reflection, and as we processed in, I immediately regretted my choice. The winds and waves of anxiety started to batter me and continued their assault as I came up to read the Gospel. As I came to the end of the reading, a quiet peace settled over me. I then began to preach extemporaneously, ignoring my notes. There was an unexplainable feeling of joy that welled up in me, and like Peter, for that brief moment it was as if, I too was walking on water! Half way through the reflection though, my mind directed me back to my prepared notes, and I lost the connection that I had just experienced. I sputtered a bit to the end, but finished free of any major catastrophe.
After the service ended, I remained in my seat quietly for a second to catch my breath. My classmates Dennis, Hank, and Pete, who all knew how nervous I was going into this, swarmed around me like I had just touched home plate after a walk off homerun. I can still feel Pete’s bear hug, and have drawn on my brother’s support and strength from that morning on more than one occasion, as similar storms have arisen.
There will be times when Jesus invites us to come out of the boat and step onto the water, he will call us to move out of our comfort zone. May we trust him and step out in faith. This will be a risk, and yes, there will be times that we will sink, just as Peter had done. But even though he sank, he immediately remembered to call out to Jesus to save him and Jesus immediately reached out his hand and pulled him up. Jesus was there for Peter, he has been there for me, and he will be there for you.
There may be something that you have been feeling led or encouraged to attempt, to start, to do, yet you have experienced the waves of doubt, anxiety, and fear rocking the stability of your boat. “Be not afraid! Come.” Step out of the boat, take the risk, keep your eyes on Jesus, and walk on the water!
Painting of Jesus reaching down to save Peter could not find credit.
Mass Readings for today, Tuesday, August 7, 2018: