Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
When I was learning to swim, I must admit that I was terrified of water. I hated getting water in my eyes, mouth, and nose. In fact, I didn’t learn to swim until AFTER I was honorably discharged from the US Navy. Then Eureka! I discovered that the key to staying afloat was proper exhaling and inhaling. I no longer fear water or drowning.
In today’s Gospel Peter does more than float; he walks on the sea until he takes his eyes off Jesus and succumbs to fear. Isn’t that the key to “staying afloat” in the midst of life’s storms and headwinds? The moment we lose our focus and stop reaching out to the Lord, fear gets the better of us and we go under. As FDR declared during the Great Depression: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’
What frightens you these days? In the midst of your fears, do your turn inward or outward to the saving arms of the Lord? Do your fears cloud your vision of the Lord coming across the water to rescue and embrace you? Remember: the Lord is the master of wind and sea and storm.
—Fr. Ed Witt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Province and pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Church in Rapid City, SD.
Be not afraid
I go before you always.
Come follow me
And I will give you rest.
—Be Not Afraid, © 1975, 1978, Robert J. Dufford, SJ, and OCP Publications