1 Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a Romans 9: 1-5 Matthew 14:22-33
The Gospel story that we just heard appears rather simple and straightforward. It is miraculous, yes, but it does not seem to be all that complex. It serves us well, however, to take the time to think this incident through. It can truly convey to us a great deal about the relationship of God with humanity as a whole, and God’s relationship with ourselves through the person of Jesus Christ. It is the whole purpose of Christ’s mission in our world to have us appreciate and deepen our relationship with our loving God and how this factors into and affects our lives and the way that we live.
Peter and the others were out doing what they had normally done as fishermen. They were living their lives in what would be considered the expected way, being in a boat, being on the sea. Experiencing a storm, even a sudden one, was really not all that unusual for them. It may have been frightening, but it was not something that was unknown.
Into the midst of this, Jesus appears. They were actually just coming to know him and were in the process of deciding whether they would truly invest their lives in him as followers. He appears to them, walking on the water. It was the water of the sea made turbulent and treacherous by the storm. But he was walking on it in what would be considered a normal fashion. He was reaching out to them, sailors frightened by the storm, yet he was not disturbed by what nature, what life, was presenting to them. He was a singular exception to everything around them, offering his presence to them as they experienced the reality of their lives as they knew them at that point.
Then we are presented with Peter, Peter the impetuous, Peter the bold one. He can do the same as Jesus. Can he really do the same? Could he overcome the forces of nature as Jesus was doing? Jesus was reaching out to him, bidding him to join with him. Peter, at first, appears to be able to contend with the treacherous sea. Then he begins to rely on himself alone. He lapses in his total faith and trust in Jesus. He begins to sink into the mire of nature, the stormy sea.
The presence of Jesus to Peter and to the others was able to sustain them no matter what nature, no matter what life, put before them. That is the clear and underlying message of this incident recorded by St. Matthew. As long as they maintained their faith, as long as they acknowledged him, he would be able to guide them through any storm. Surrounded by this storm, representative of any adversity we might face, he declared, “It is I, do not be afraid.” In their faith and trust, they declared, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Too often we make the relationship with God to be too complex, too difficult, too demanding. Like Elijah, we expect God and the relationship with God to be found in a crushing wind, or an earthquake, or in fire. The presence of God, rather, is found in the whispering wind. The presence of our God, as revealed by Jesus Christ, is to be calming, as softly whispering in our lives. That presence comes when we recognize what is good in ourselves, what is truly good in life, what is good in the creation which surrounds us. That presence comes when we realize that this same calming presence will stand with us whatever tempest might rock the boat of our life to steady it, to guide it on its course.
When we recognize what is good around us, when we recognize that this is what reveals the loving reality of God to us, then the call is made to us, to be the very best reality of the qualities of life with which we have been endowed by our God. When we allow, with patient, loving trust, the revelation of that which is good, when we allow the experience of good to be found in and through us individually and as a community believing in Jesus Christ, then is made know and then is experienced the reality of our good and gracious God.