As usual, the disciples were in trouble. Jesus came, walking on water, towards the boat. The fourth watch was the last part of the night between three and six in the morning, the end of the night. Naturally, the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost.
Ghost stories were just as popular as they are now. They were afraid. Almost everywhere we read, the disciples were afraid, or they doubted, or they ran away. They were a rather disorderly group of “least likely to succeed” men. Reading the Gospel story is like looking in the mirror. The disciples look a lot like us; we look a lot like them. Our boat has certainly been tossed about by the waves. We are still in the middle of the storm. Not every day that we have to shelter at home, ware face masks everywhere we go, experience so many people dying. The pandemic has rocked our boat! The whole world has been affected by the darkness of the night. There are folks who have not left their homes since March. They are terrified of what might happen. Consider who comes walking towards us. “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” Only one person got out of the boat—St. Peter. And look what happened to him. He almost drowned! However, he didn’t drown. Jesus pulled him out of the water. St. Peter got all wet—like a baptism effect—like a purification. “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Better to have tried and failed, then never to have tried at all. In a sense, St. Peter failed. When Jesus pulled him out of the water He said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus was probably smiling when he said those words to the one who dared to get out of the boat—the one who got all wet. Eleven of the disciples never tried. Leaving the safety of the boat represents taking a risk in order to get closer to Jesus.
St. Peter did not have time to analyze all that was happening. He just knew that to reach Jesus was his goal, even if it meant stepping into the unknown. We like our routines. There is comfort in ritual. That’s why we sit in the same pew; shop at the same stores; dine at the same restaurants. Getting out of our comfort zone is uncomfortable. We are creatures of habit. None of us are accustomed to walking on water. Neither was St. Peter. At the beginning St. Peter seemed like a pro—as if he knew what he was doing, until—“…he saw how strong the wind was; he became frightened and began to sink.” The wind did not get stronger, Peter got weaker—he became frightened.
Fear can be one of the most dangerous emotions. Fear can kill us—almost killed St. Peter. We live in challenging times. Our greatest challenge is not to be afraid. Be prudent, take necessary precautions, (as we have been instructed) but not out of fear. Just because we read in the newspaper or hear on the television or see on a mobile device—does not make something true. Facts can be exaggerated. Sensationalism can be exciting, but for some people, might be frightening. All things happen for a reason. Our responsibility is to discern. Given the fact that countless have died and continue to get sick, we should discern to pay attention—to take care. We might also discern that we are in a storm, but Jesus is in the storm—walking towards us. He never abandons humanity. The Lord invites us to trust in Him, not in our own strength, but in Him. Jesus reassures us that like all storms, this too shall pass. The wind will eventually die down—calm will return. Question is, how will we be different? What will change in our life? The disciples were never the same after the night out and what they experienced. There were predictions that by now all would be back to normal. We are not there yet. Patience. Just like a desert experience—a purification we must endure. Rather than look at a solution in the future—we are called to live the moment.
God is talking to us. “Come—walk to me—do not be afraid.” “I am with you always.”