“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
The gospel is an exemplification of what is happening in the lives of the followers of Christ. The disciples were caught up in a storm and being tossed by the strong wind. It is a time of fear and trembling and Jesus is coming towards them is a sign of hope and consolation. Initially they thought it was a ghost, but he consoles them saying “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter recognizes the master and calls out and expresses his desire to go closer to him. “Lord if it is you, command me come to you on the water.” The response of the Lord was positive and as Peter was walking on the water with the force of the wind striking against made him feel insecure and frightened. Then he began to sink and calls out “Lord save me” and Jesus saved him from being drowned. Here the question is why did you doubt?
The challenge of trusting faith: Jesus gives an open invitation to everyone, come to me all you who labor and overburdened and I will give you rest. Peter represents all who dare to believe that Jesus is Savior, take their first steps in confidence that Jesus is able to sustain them, and then forget to keep their gaze fixed on him when they face storms of temptations. From the depth of crisis, however, they remember to call on the Savior, and they experience the total sufficiency of his grace to meet their needs. It is this type of “little Faith” of Peter, which Jesus later identifies as the rock on which he will build his Church. The only Faith Jesus expects of his followers is a Faith which concentrates solely on him. In other words, when we simply heed Our Lord, we can do great things. So, with His grace, we have to raise our awareness of God’s presence in our lives.
“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” It teaches us that adversity is neither a sign of God’s displeasure, nor prosperity a sign of His pleasure, that illness is not a sign of inadequate Faith nor good health is not a sign of great Faith. Paradoxically, the storms of life can be a means of blessing. When things are going badly, our hearts are more receptive to Jesus. A broken heart is often a door through which Christ can find entry. He still comes to us in the midst of our troubles, saying, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Life is a journey to God, a journey of growth and maturation and there is often more growth and maturation in the valleys than on the mountaintops. Trials are an opportunity to grow closer to God and if we don’t learn our lesson from a trial the first time it comes I would not be surprised if God were to allow the same or a similar trial to come our way again so that we learn the next time and grow closer to him. Trials are opportunities if we want to succeed spiritually and really grow close to the Lord.
One of the things learned during a trial is that we cannot do anything by our own strength, but everything can be done with the grace of God. We see Peter failing the test in our Gospel today. But during all of his trials and with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost Peter grew and in the Acts of the Apostles we see that Peter had matured and grown enormously. In Acts we see that Peter is relying on the Lord and the Lord is working powerfully through him. In the Gospels Peter speaks first and thinks afterwards, but in Acts Peter relies on the Lord and allows the Lord to speak through him. For example Peter denied the Lord three times in the courtyard of the high priest but in Acts Peter is sent to prison twice for preaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:3; 5:17). In the Gospel Peter did not want Jesus to go to Jerusalem to endure his passion but in Acts Peter and the other apostles were glad to have had the honor of suffering for the sake of the name of Jesus (Acts 5:41). Not only that, but in Acts 5:15 the sick even hoped that the shadow of Peter would fall on them. We never read in the Gospels that the sick hoped the shadow of Jesus would fall on them. In Acts Peter has become monumental. If Peter did not endure all the trials we see him experiencing, especially in the Acts of the Apostles, he would never have grown to become the great person he became.
Call on Jesus when we are confronted with difficulties and problems: It is the presence of Jesus which gives us peace even in the wildest storms of life: storms of sorrow, storms of doubt, tension and uncertainty, storms of anxiety and worries, storms of anger and despair, storms of temptations. Storms reveal to us our inability to save ourselves and point us to the infinite ability of God to save us. When Jesus shows up in our life’s storms, we find that we gain strength to do the seemingly impossible. Storms let us know that without him we can do nothing, without him we are doomed to fail. Yet, when Jesus shows up, we gain the strength to join Paul, saying, “In Christ I can do all things.” But this demands a personal relationship with God, with Jesus, enhanced through prayer, meditative study of Scripture and active Sacramental life. Experiencing Jesus’ presence in our lives, let us confess our faith in him and call out for his help and protection.