I would like to begin with the dialogue of Christ and St Peter in today’s gospel.
The apostles were understandably afraid as they witnessed a human body doing something that was beyond nature. Quite rightly they thought they were seeing a spirit, a ghost.
This was unnervingly a supernatural happening. As we can see it from our vantage point, this was an indication of what Christ’s body would be like after the Resurrection. But the apostles would have only realised this after the event of the Resurrection itself.
To their fear and panic Christ addressed his words: “Courage…Do not be afraid.”
Peter’s response can appear bold and audacious, even impertinent. He tests this ghostly appearance with the request: “If it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.” With trust, perhaps recognising the voice, Peter steps out of the boat when Jesus says: “Come”.
Let us for a moment, allow ourselves to give consideration to our lives in light of St Peter’s actions.
There are frightening and disturbing things that happen in our life.
Sometimes these can come from God. For example, the vocation to priesthood or consecrated life can be disturbing and unsettling. I know it was for me and my counselling of young people pondering these vocations has confirmed it is a regular occurrence. God can disturb our lives for a higher good.
Sometimes these frightening and disturbing things come into our lives from circumstances or events that we cannot control. Consider the families of our fellow Australians who died on MH17.
And at times too, these frightening and disturbing things can come to us from the Devil. It might be strong temptations, an abiding tendency towards a certain sin or a habit of sin, all of which the Devil makes the most of.
In all these frightening and disturbing times, Christ’s words to St Peter and the other apostles are words to us as well, ”Courage…Do not be afraid.” We have to step out of the boat in trust. We have to rely on Christ too because it is towards Him that we walk. And sometimes we will walk in ways we could not on our own – like on water.
Why does Peter eventually falter? We are told in the gospel that “as soon as he felt the force of the wind” he took fright and started to sink. It wasn’t that he was walking on water that caused him to sink. It was when he realised what he was battling against, what was opposing him, what was acting against him.
Perhaps St Peter faltered because even then, after such a supernatural display of walking on water Peter had his sight fixed on nature (this world) not on what is beyond nature, namely Christ, who is the awesome power of God.
Like the Jewish people St Paul refers to in the epistle, the Messiah, who is the power and wisdom of God, can be overlooked and even rejected.
One of the reasons, among many, for coming to Mass each Sunday is that the sacred liturgy gives us true perspective. Every Mass manifests and affects the whole Church. It is never just an action of the local parish or portion of the parish who gathers. So just by being here our own lives are inserted into the reality of the whole Church.
But also through attentiveness to the prayers of the Mass and the words of Holy Scripture we are given a perspective through which to look at our own lives. That perspective is of the tens of thousands of years of salvation history.
We see our own life as a significant but tiny portion of God’s dealings with humanity. We can be astounded at the patience and mercy of God. We can be moved by the examples of faith of the saints and the holy ones of the Old Testament. We can be in wonder at the reality and power of God at work.
All of this gives us resolve and courage for our own life. We can be given a liberating view on our own struggles, hardships and temptations. We realise that we are never alone.
Christ will be with us in the storms and struggles of our lives and certainly in the trials we encounter in trying to do the will of the Father. While St Peter’s experience is instructive and helpful to us, let us not concentrate on him. St Peter would not want that. Let us rather “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb 12:2)