Take Courage, I Am Here
Reflection based on Mt. 14:22-33
It is a hard night of rowing, and Jesus is not even with them. Suddenly, He appears, walking as if on dry land. Of course the Apostles are terrified; they have never seen anything like this. “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid,” Jesus tells them.
“Lord, if it is You,” Peter declares, “command me to come to you on the water.” Surely, as the Master does, so can the disciple do.
Peter’s bold faith invites Jesus’ answer: “Come.”
Well, now Peter has to do it: step out onto the water. Not just calm water, either, but a sea in turmoil because of the strong wind. Peter clambers over the side of the boat and finds, as he looks in amazement at Jesus, that his feet are steady. With eyes on the Lord he takes a few steps forward. And then he realizes that the surface under his feet is roiling in constant movement. He glances down at the waves…can he really do this? A gust of wind, catching his attention, rocks him. It is too strong—fear springs up in Peter’s heart, and he begins to sink. “Lord, save me!” he cries.
“From on high he reached down and seized me; he drew me forth from the mighty waters” (Ps. 18:17). Jesus reaches out His hand and catches Peter. Steadying him, Jesus says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” They walk back to the boat together and climb in. Peter takes a deep breath to calm his pounding heart; the other Apostles are simply astounded. They have witnessed their Teacher treading on the waves of the sea, their spokesman walking in the footsteps of the Master, and their Lord stretching out His arm to save Peter when he faltered.
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus had said. He might add, “Of course you can follow Me wherever I bid you come. I will not let any harm come to you, Peter. The key is to keep your eyes on Me.”
Our world seems to be roiling with uncertainty and unrest. I have experienced, especially in recent months, that I can choose between two focal points. I can look intently at, and be caught up in, the manifold problems of our current times. Or I can fix my gaze on the Lord. The former course leads me to useless worry, spinning my wheels over things I cannot control. The latter grounds me. It is not that the difficulties of our times disappear when I focus on Jesus; rather, they are put in perspective. I am reminded that He is Lord, thus ultimately in control of the world and history. And I remember my place and my task. My place is in the barque of Peter, the ship of the Church, the kingdom of God. My task is to follow Jesus wherever He leads me, to grow in holiness and to be a light in the world.
I would venture to say that a key for each one of us right now is to fix our eyes upon Jesus. When we do this, we can walk with confidence in His footsteps. The very ground under us may seem shaky, but in following Him, we need have no fear. But what if fear springs up in my heart anyway? What if the tension and confusion of our times rocks me? What if there are times when my gaze is pulled toward the storms of the world, and I sink into anxiety, anger, or sadness? This is precisely when I need to remember what Peter did when the waves overwhelmed him. “Lord, save me!” he cried. And the Lord stretched out His mighty hand to save Peter. Jesus is the same Lord; He will also reach out in mercy to me.
So the second key is this: to turn our eyes back to Jesus when we falter. He will uphold us as we follow Him and He will pull us up again when we stumble. We might hear Him say over and over to us: “Take courage, it is I. I am with you, and so you have no need to fear.”
“For who is a rock but our God? The God who… makes the path safe before me.”
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR