“…..Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a spirit’; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid’. And Peter answered him and said, ‘ Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water’. And he said, ‘Come’. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, ‘Lord save me.’ And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, and said unto him, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’
And when they were come into the ship the wind ceased.”
(Matthew 14, v.22-32)
This really crystallizes the basic message of discipleship. Look at what happens. As long as Peter keeps his eyes riveted on Jesus; as long as he keeps Jesus Christ as his one single goal, he can literally ‘walk on water’. But the moment he gets distracted and takes his eyes off the Master, and becomes aware of the wind and waves and storm around him, he becomes afraid and starts to sink.
In our own walk towards Jesus Christ, the same happens to us. To be a Christian today; to accept His invitation to discipleship, really demands heroic courage and little less than a miracle. To stay close to Jesus and to live the kind of life He calls us to, Jesus is asking us to ‘walk on water’. As he says to St. Peter, Jesus is saying to us, ‘Come’. As long as we keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, we can do it; but as soon as we get distracted and take our eyes off Our Lord, we begin ‘to sink’.
So how can we keep our eyes focused on Jesus beckoning us through life to walk on water towards Him? What are these ‘strong gusts of wind’ trying to push me off track? What are these ‘waves’ that are periodically threatening to overwhelm me and try to sink me? What is the most important thing in my life? Is it Jesus? If we answer ‘Yes’, then what are my worries and doubts, bad habits and weaknesses, that make me take my eyes off Him and lead me into temptation and sin so that I begin to sink?
Lent is a good time to scrutinize our lives and discern what these obstacles are that are keeping us from walking towards Jesus.
The lesson here is that our faith must be rooted in Christ and we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by life’s circumstances. Doubt is not the absence of faith, it is a test of faith. Peter had faith to step out of the boat onto the water, but he did not count the cost and he ‘looked down’. Once we discover what these distractions are – sins, fears, doubts etc. – and with all the humility and candour we can muster, we can also find ourselves crying out like St. Peter, ‘Save me Lord, I’m going to drown!’ Then He will reach down and pull us to safety.
Another great lesson here is that Christ’s hand is always extended to the lost. When with faith we reach out to the Lord for salvation, grace lifts us out of the sinking waves of sin. Jesus’s walk on water is a principle that the invisible realities of faith in Christ are victorious over the visible threats of this world.
So the ‘wind’ dies down, the ‘waves’ are calm again, and we continue our ‘walk on water’ towards Jesus. Then we can practise the Presence of God; the reality that He will never allow us to capsize as long as we put our trust in Him. We must be ever conscious of the life of God within our soul, sometimes called ‘sanctifying grace’, that awesome mystery of God’s love within us. To help us remain there we have to be faithful to prayer, frequenting the sacraments whenever possible.
Let us not forget though, that before we reach our safe haven that ‘storm’ can blow up again at any moment. Be at peace, but be attentive.