Peter’s boat on the rough sea is an icon of the Church, symbolising the Christian community’s mission is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and a new way of living as God’s people. Despite the many obstacles and struggles, the Lord’s help and protection will never be lacking, and Christ’s Church will never be overcome. We learn to face together the difficulties, united and strengthened by faith in Jesus who sends us into the world.
Walking on the water, Jesus gets close to the disciples; however they did not recognise him. They cried out in fear, thinking that he was a ghost. Jesus calms them down saying: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” [Mt 14,27]. The words “it is I” reminds us of God overcoming the fear of Moses, who was sent to liberate the people from Egyptian oppression. [Ex 3,14]
For the communities of today as well as for those of yesterday, it was and it is very important to be always open to God’s Word: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” Then Peter addressed Jesus as “Lord [Mt 14,28] this indicates the deep trust and respect, disciples have for Christ’s divinity. “Throughout his public life, Jesus demonstrated his sovereignty by works of power over nature, illnesses, demons, death and sin”. From the beginning of the Christian faith [Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 447-450], the assertion of Christ’s lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognised that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Caesar is not The Lord. No one can say “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit. [1 Cor 12.3] Jesus is the Logos, the Word made flesh, the beginning and the end. Indeed, “At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow”.
Discovering that it is Jesus, Peter asks if he also can walk on the water. He wants to experience the power which dominates the fury of the sea. This is a power which in the Bible belongs only to God. Jesus allows him to participate in this power. But Peter is afraid. He thinks that he will sink and he cries out: “Lord, save me!” Jesus assures him and takes hold of him and reproaches him: “You have so little faith!” In our own weakness and doubt we can be confident that he who overcame death for our sake will empower us for service. By his example, Christ taught his followers the value of personal prayer. He is the model of Christian prayer, because he prays in us and with us, and for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross, and in his resurrection, heard by the Father.
Finally Peter was overcome by the waves because of his lack of faith. After Jesus saved him, both of them go into the boat and the wind calms down. The other Disciples, who are in the boat, are astonished and bowed before Jesus, recognizing that he is the Son of God: “Truly, you are the Son of God”. This is the first instance in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus was addressed as the Son of God by his disciples. The title “Son of God” signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus Christ to God his Father; he is the only Son of the Father. In this way Matthew suggests that it is not only Peter who sustains the faith of the Disciples, but also that the faith of the disciples sustains Peter’s faith. At Caesarea Philippi, Peter will go further and professes Jesus as: “the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Let us then who believe in Jesus the Son of God and worship him, encourage each other in this faith as we face the challenges of life, and faithfully bear witness to the Gospel.
Fr. Nathan Williams