1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a
In our Gospel reading for Sunday (Matthew 14:22-33), we have the account of Jesus walking on the water. This feat of Jesus, and His exchange with Peter, have a lot to tell us about our relationship with God and what it means for our lives.
The first thing this account tells us is that God has the power. Jesus does have control over the elements. He is able to walk on the water! This is not to show us that God can do tricks for us. Jesus’ walking on the water reminds us that we can put our trust in what He can do.
The second thing is that we can have power in Him. After the disciples realize that it is Jesus, and not a ghost they are seeing, Peter says, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." And Jesus says, "Come." He doesn’t say, "That power is for me alone" (something we’re often tempted to say). He simply says, "Come." With Jesus we can do great things! Without Him, we can do nothing. The gift is there. We were given the Holy Spirit when we were baptized. The gift was confirmed at Confirmation. The miracles we are able to do may not be as awe-inspiring as walking on water, but they are remarkable nonetheless.
Another thing this account tells us is that difficulties do not magically disappear. When Peter does step out of the boat, and actually begins walking on the water, the winds have not subsided. At first, the winds do not deter Peter from walking, but then, when they continue, he begins to be afraid. Having a deep, personal relationship with God does not mean that He will wave some magic wand, and all our troubles will leave. It does not mean that we will have smooth sailing all the way. What it does mean is that the difficulties and crises we face do not need to deter us from answering God’s call and living good lives.
A fourth thing this account tells us is that Jesus is always with us. When Peter gets scared, he begins to sink in the water. He cries out, "Lord, save me!" Matthew tells us that "immediately" Jesus catches him and pulls him out of the water. At those times when we do get scared, or when we forget how much God loves us, or even when we are "walking on the water," Jesus is always there for us. Again, He may demonstrate His presence not in some spectacle, but in something like the "tiny whispering sound" that Elijah heard at the entrance to the cave on Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:11-13).
Our goal in life is not to do amazing tricks, or show how powerful we are. Instead, our goal is to believe and trust in God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, to let the Holy Spirit empower and guide us, even through the storms in our lives, and be faithful disciples. If we are willing to do that, we will hear Jesus say to us what he said to Peter on the water: "Come." "Come be with me forever."
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.