Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The image I have in my mind is that of Peter, bravely, but stupidly, trying to walk on water.
The image I have in my mind are that of my countrymen, trying to survive the literal storms that PAGASA has predicted. Or have failed to predict.
It could also be the psychological and emotional storms we go through. When life is not what we hoped it would be. When life is more cruel, more unfair, more stupid, than our parents or teachers have taught us. And people drag us down instead of pulling us up. When we feel like our whole world is crumbling and sinking and cannot understand. When we do not know what’s going to happen next and we feel like we are at the end of things.
The image I have in my mind is that of Robin Williams at the end of his rope, at the end of his belt.
We walk on water, not because we have a choice. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes our boats are just rocking so much we’d rather walk than stay. We Filipinos have a word for it: “kapit sa patalim.” We hold on, even if it’s to the edge of a sharpened knife. Sometimes our lives become so constricted, windows and doors closing one after the other, that we feel we don’t have any choice left. And it is during those moments that it is most dangerous to make decisions. Because it is during those moments that we are capable of making decisions hard to undo. Decisions that cause lifetime grief.
But we Filipinos hold on, even if it’s to the edge of a sharpened knife. Kapit nga eh. The holding on makes us survive another day, and then another, and then another, until we are no longer just surviving, until we are able to pick ourselves up and be ok again.
We learn several things from this gospel passage:
1. God does not calm the storm. In another passage he does. But not in this one. For some strange mystical reason we cannot comprehend, he allows it to happen. Maybe it is part of growing up. Maybe it is part of formation. Maybe he is a mute witness to these things. Maybe he doesn’t have the power to do it. Or maybe the sinking is part of the experience. Maybe the water purifies and renews and gives us deeper faith. Maybe it is part of life that death is part of it.
Peter asked Jesus, tell me to walk on water, just like you! It is testament to Peter’s character that he didn’t ask, “Master, let me walk towards you. But first, tell the waves to calm down!” Peter knew that the point was to walk on water, NOT when the waves are calm but when there is a raging storm happening. Or what’s the point?
2. We really think we can walk on water! Or at least Peter does. Who was it who said that the bee by all indications should not be able to fly, but the bee doesn’t know it so it just flaps its wings until it gets off the ground? We have moments in our lives when we really do think we are capable of much much more than we are actually capable of. We human beings have the wherewithal to push the boundaries of our understanding and abilities. But then we like to LIVE and not just survive. We live because we walk on water. We sink more often than not, but by God, we get out of that boat!
And it has to be during a storm that we walk. Not during calm because nothing revolutionary happens during calm.
3. God is THERE in the storm. That is the wonder of it all. While He did not calm the storm, he also did not shy away from it. When we sink, we sink desperately, miserably. And the storm can be so overwhelming that we no longer see a hand being reached out to us. And that is when we make bad decisions—decisions hard to undo and cause lifetime grief.
But God is there, even when people are sinking.
He is there, even when we do not see hands being reached out to us anymore. He is there, when we feel like it’s the end of things. He is there, at the end of our rope and our hope.
[by Eric Santillan]
About Eric Santillan
AngPeregrino is Eric Santillan. He is a management consultant for two firms specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and risk management, cost control and culture management. During weekends, he does counselling for Clinica Salutare, an Integrative Health Clinic. He is also a writer for The Mindanao Current, a core group member of Heroic Leadership Philippines, and a retreat giver.