‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’… Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:25-33).
Saint Simon Peter could swim. We know – from what we are told in the Gospels – that Saint Simon Peter was in fact a very good swimmer.
Towards the end of the Gospel of Saint John, we are told, “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.” (John 21:7-8).
And yet, Simon Peter had quite a bit of trouble with the water. After all, he tried to walk on water once and had started to sink in a panic.
In Matthew’s Gospel, we are told, “When the disciples saw Him (Christ) walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:25-33).
There was a man who was clearly a confident swimmer, losing faith so rapidly and detrimentally, that he literally thought he would drown in water that he could swim in.
I can imagine the commotion in the boat… There they were after fishing all night long, tired and alone. And then there – right there in the pale pink-golden hues of dawn, they saw Him walking towards them.
I can see them clearly in my mind’s eye. I can see how one of them – maybe Andrew – saw his Lord. Maybe he looked twice before he shouted to the others. And then they looked up, from their work – bent double over the nets. Surely, they all panicked.
After all, we are told that they originally thought Him a ghost and were afraid. But I wonder what they feared. I used to think they feared the idea of a ghost or a spirit come to haunt them, but now I wonder… After all, they surely loved their Blessed Lord. Perhaps they were afraid that He had been killed when they were not paying attention. Perhaps they were afraid of their own neglect of Him?
And then there was Simon Peter. What a commotion he must have caused inside that boat. I can imagine him kicking off his sandals and throwing off his cloak. And I can imagine the other disciples, Andrew, James and John shouting at him, “You idiot.” They might have called. “Stop it Simon. You’re always getting us into trouble. What are you doing? Sit down you fool! Where are you going? The water’s rough, you’ll drown you dope!”
But Simon Peter saw his Beloved. And he called out to Him, “‘Tell me to come to you on the water.’” And God said “‘Come.’”
That is all it took.
His Beloved said “Come.” And over the edge of the boat, he went…
Simon Peter ignored the hollering from the boat. He ignored the waves of the lake. He ignored the wind of the storm. He saw only the eyes of his Beloved. He heard only His Holy voice. And he walked towards that beckoning. “Come.” He was told. And so, he went. Simon Peter WALKED on water.
And what a wonder to behold! What a tremendous wonder…
For a moment - a mere breath - all was well.
But I am like Simon Peter in all the worst of ways, and so I know very well what happened next. Right there in the very midst of a miracle, the man lost his focus. Right there he heard the shouts of his friends in his ears. He saw the sight of the waves with his eyes. He felt the sting of the wind on his skin. Perhaps he began to taste the salt water of the lake inside his mouth and smell the sharp bright drops of the rain inside his nose?
Perhaps it began with the rain, which was falling so heavily in the storm that the drops obscured his vision as he walked towards his Lord? Perhaps the waves cast him upwards and downwards so rapidly, that he could not focus on His Holy God.
And in that moment – the mere instant – when his focus was lost, Simon Peter began to sink.
I can feel Simon’s grief and his panic, I can feel his despair – for I feel that too. Not all the time – of course, or I would be more like Judas Iscariot and not like Simon Peter – but I feel that too…
For every time I turn my focus away from my Beloved, I begin to sink – even in the water that I can swim in any time.
Lucky for Simon – and lucky for me – that when I call out, “‘Lord, save me!’” My Lord and my God reaches out His Holy Hand to me. Even despite my “‘…little faith…’” For truly He is the Son of God!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.