Amanda, mother of two teens, can relate to Peter’s sinking in the story of Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). “During those times in my life when I am not as connected to God, I tend to feel more stressed and irritated. Things don’t go as well.” She admits that her faith life is not where she’d like it to be.
Amanda’s story is a common one. While Jesus is eager to walk with us on the water of seemingly impossible challenges, we often struggle to believe he can truly help us. Like Peter, we are frightened by the strong winds—whether they are challenges with our family, our health, or our jobs—and we take our eyes from Jesus. We may stop going to church regularly. We may give up our moments of prayer. We may try to do it all ourselves. And we start to sink.
To walk on water with Jesus, we need to look at this gospel story for direction.
“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” When his disciples think they are seeing a ghost and are afraid, Jesus assures them that indeed it is him, walking on the water. This is a strong message for us. When we’re not sure if we glimpse Jesus in the distance walking toward us, this gospel reminds us to take heart and trust. “I’ve learned that there are basically two emotions, love and fear,” says Dave, father of three. “When I’m afraid, I’m not open to the love of God.”
Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. Peter got out of the boat—that’s key in this verse. If we want to meet Jesus and walk on water, we will need to leave our “boat.” We will need to leave what is familiar and comfortable and move toward Jesus.
Carol, a director of religious education, watched with awe as 12 members of her parish left for Tanzania to work in an orphanage for two weeks. “They all felt a very specific call to go on this trip,” she says. “I know God has a reason for each of them to go—and I believe it’s a different reason for each of them.”
Christ calls each of us to leave the comfort of our own boats—perhaps to help solve a problem in our community, to engage more with the poor, or to walk with a friend who is suffering. Our temptation will always be to stay in the safest, most comfortable spot. Yet Christ asks us to trust him and leave the boat.
But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened and began to sink. When we’re sinking, we need to pause and see what it is that we’re afraid of. That we won’t have enough money? That we can’t keep up with the demands on us? That our health or that of our loved ones will fail? Jesus calls us to turn those fears over to God and rely on God’s grace to help us through each day.
He cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out and caught him. At that moment Peter knew his only hope was Jesus. It was not a mitigated prayer of “If I can’t work this out on my own, maybe you can get involved a bit.” It was an all-out admission that Peter could not save himself. He needed Jesus. We need a similar admission.
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus’ chastising of Peter comes at the same time that he’s saving him. Peter doubts Jesus as he sees Jesus walk on water, even as Peter walks on water himself. Is it any wonder that the rest of us sometimes doubt as well? This passage gives us comfort—Jesus will reach out a hand to us, even as we doubt him.
For Amanda, the mother who is struggling with her faith, the story of Jesus’ inviting Peter to walk on water brings hope. “Now that I’m in my 40s, I can look back on my life and see times where I felt more peaceful and connected to God, and times I have felt more distant and alone,” she says. “I see the importance of plugging into a strong faith community with good liturgy. I know that it’s key that I make some time to pray and reflect on my own. Even when I’m in a more doubtful place, I’ve learned what I need to do to get back on course.”
By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2013 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for the past four years running. Here’s a sample issue.
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