Today I would like to focus my reflection on what happened next. Caught up in their terror in the middle of the storm, the disciples did not recognize Jesus. They thought he was a ghost. He tries to reassure them by telling them that it is him, they need not be afraid—but to no avail! Peter yells towards Jesus and asks him that, if it is truly him, to make him walk on water, like he was doing. Not a problem for Jesus. Peter, all focused on Jesus and without thinking, got out of the boat and started walking on the water. All of a sudden he must have started thinking that this should not be happening. He started thinking of the wind blowing in his face and the huge waves. And he started sinking. Immediately he asks for help. “Lord, save me”, he cries to Jesus. Naturally, Jesus does not let him down.
Storms in our lives are never lacking. It happens from time to time that we find ourselves in situations where we feel overwhelmed. We feel like there is no hope for us, the waves dragging us down. It could be an unexpected accident or illness, a huge family problem, loss of work, an unexplained depression or even a faith crisis. It seems that, in such circumstances, today’s gospel offers us two options. We either focus on ourselves and our problems, or turn our gaze and stretch our hands towards Jesus. The first option inevitably leads us to self-pity and continues to demoralize us, to drag us down. We lose perspective, and we won’t be able to see clearly. Notice how, wrapped in their fears, the disciples could not recognize Jesus. Something very similar happened on the day of the resurrection of Jesus. His close friend Mary of Magdala, focusing on her sorrow and self-pity, could not recognize the risen Lord. She thought he was the gardener!
Then we have the beautiful encounter between Jesus and Peter. During those few seconds that Peter was focusing on Jesus, he managed to walk on the waves. Then, as soon as his gaze and attention shifted, he started going down! The waves and the wind were there even when he was walking on the water. What changed was not what was happening around him, but his focus, his center of attention.
Jesus never promised us that, if we followed him we would never have any problems. They are part of everybody’s life. But he did promise that he would never abandon us, that he would never leave us alone. When the disciples found themselves in trouble, he came to their help. And when Peter was drowning, Jesus offered him his hand. That’s how Jesus relates to us. The problem is, do we recognize him? Do we let him in our boat, so that he can calm our waves like he did in the gospel story?
We need to create space and time for Jesus to enter into the boat of our lives. When the prophet Elijah found himself in huge trouble in today’s first reading, he went to the mountain of the Lord to find some comfort. Again, God did not let him down. He did come and visit him, but only in the stillness of sheer silence!
In times of distress let us create these moments of silence, and like Peter cry out, “Lord, save me!”