It was a typical hot and humid summer day. We headed out on the boat for an evening of family fun, fishing. No small task preparing the boat, the gear, the snacks and the extra clothes for the toddlers. It was all worth it when our oldest catches the first fish! While we celebrate, the gentle breeze picks up its intensity, the beautiful blue sky darkens to the north, lightning flashes in the distance and is joined by low rumbles of thunder. We conclude the storm is going north and proceed to enjoy our evening; we had put in so much effort and the fishing was bountiful. Before long, we were proven wrong and the storm was upon us. We felt the electricity in the air and the river became rough. Panic set in. We rushed to secure the gear, situate the boys and get ourselves safely back to shore.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 14 verse 24, Jesus is on the shore. Peter is in a boat with the other disciples and they are in distress. Jesus, their teacher, their friend, their Messiah, walks out on the water to rescue them. However, their first reaction to His help is fear. Peter demands proof. “If it is you, Lord, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus complies and calls to Peter, “Come.” Imagine Peter, stepping out of the boat, trusting Jesus and walking on the water. Think of a time when Jesus has called you out of your boat, you trusted and the reward was His smile! Maybe you followed His lead in a difficult conversation, took a new job requiring you to move across the country or took the risk to share your conversion story with a room full of strangers. His smile of delight shines like the sun. It warms us to our very souls, makes us feel invincible; as if we could walk on water! These moments of great consolation, the times we know God’s love is real, are such gifts on our spiritual journey. Cherish these moments, write them on your heart. Praise God for allowing you to experience His real and Holy Presence.
When Peter caught a glimpse of the storm, he panicked. My heart aches for Peter as he begins to sink; he desperately calls to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” How many times has this been me? Begging Jesus, maybe demanding Jesus to save me. What storms cause you to turn your head and take your eyes off Jesus? The death of a loved one, the loss of your job, marital discord or distance in a relationship with a friend? Whatever it is, doubt, fear, shame or darkness start to set into our souls. We start to feel inadequate, unworthy or unloved. Thankfully, Peter’s story doesn’t end there, and neither does ours.
What does Jesus do? Jesus immediately stretches out His hand and catches Peter. Jesus hasn’t taken His eyes off Peter, nor does He take his eyes off us. He’s waiting for us to turn our eyes back to Him so He can rescue us with His mercy and love. This is our moment of choice; will we take hold of Jesus’ outstretched hand? Will we turn to Him in prayer, in praise, in adoration? Will we replace our panic with prayer; choose to hope instead of despair? Follow our Faith instead of letting fear lead the way? Peter chooses to rely on Jesus and gets back into the boat. He is once again in His Holy Presence. It is from this place of safety, trust and love that Jesus begins His real work with Peter.
After saving Peter, Jesus wants to talk about it. “Oh, you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Jesus asks us the same question. “Why do you doubt?” We can ask the Holy Spirit to lead us through the storm, to provide us the wisdom, strength and courage to press on. It’s also an opportunity to root out the temptation that causes us to take our eyes off Jesus. Perhaps, like me, a lack of trust allows you to think you’re in control. Maybe pride permits you to think you are walking on water all by yourself. Whatever pulls your eyes off Jesus, take His hand and follow Him to the sacraments for healing. His true and Holy Presence is found in the Eucharist and reconciliation, the grace we need to change our focus from the storm to Him. Through the sacraments, our Faith will grow, our love of Him will grow and our trust in Him will grow. He continues to write His story on our souls.
Storms will come. It’s up to us to choose to grab hold of Jesus’ hand or get swept up in the storm. Peter chose to take Jesus’ hand; will you?
Linda Schwartz, Parishioner of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish
Published July/August 2020 Catholic Life issue