Today’s gospel is a lesson in trust and focus: trusting in ourselves and God at the same time as getting the task done. It’s one of the familiar scenes of the apostles in a boat (MT 14: 22-36) and is clearly a test for them as Jesus is not with them. Rather, he has sent them ahead while he goes away – as is his custom – to refuel spiritually on a mountain alone.
Everything is fine until a serious wind comes up and rocks the boat so much that it is in danger of capsizing. Enter Jesus walking on the water toward them creating a double reason for distress: the possibility that they’re seeing a ghost as well as the danger of drowning. Jesus tells them not to be afraid. “It is I,” he says, and Peter tests the vision by challenging Jesus to have him walk to meet him in the water. Jesus obliges by the simple command: “Come!” Peter, ever the impetuous one, climbs out of the boat and is walking until he realizes that he is, in fact, walking on top of the water – an impossible thing to do. So, of course he starts to sink. As we expect, Jesus catches him, saves him and then remonstrates with him for his lack of faith.
Peter would have been fine if he had just kept walking…if he didn’t lose focus on his goal which was getting to Jesus. Losing focus and allowing our fear of failure – sometimes by over-thinking things – to be the actual cause of the failure comes from a lack of trust in ourselves as well as in God.
I’m much more willing to put my trust in God than in myself sometimes. Reflecting on this passage today, however, makes me more conscious that the two efforts are really one if we are living a life of faith. God and I have to be working together in everything. My focus needs to be that of the Spirit of God within me. If not, I will surely stumble and could even drown. So it appears today that the lesson is vigilance: staying awake is a must every day.
(N.B. Ironic that I wrote about paying attention on this date and then commented on the wrong readings! It never pays to skip a day of your chosen practice! It makes the message even more important. VIGILANCE!)