In our gospel today Jesus says to Peter, “Come.” It is a simple invitation, one that Jesus gives us daily. The same one He offered to the rich young man elsewhere in the gospel. The young man who turned away because he had many possessions. Think of the ways you obey this invitation, think of the ways you avoid it. What is it that makes it difficult for us to clasp His hand to come to Jesus? He said to Peter and to us come, “Come.” But so often we hesitate.
Peter became frightened, what frightens us the most? What frightens you? Maybe waiting for the doctor to call with the results of medical tests. Parents are often frightened by what their children are exposed to on TV and the internet. Seniors are often frightened by growing disability, dependency. Mid-lifers are frightened over losing their jobs, seeing incomes dwindle and their marriages fracture. Sometimes teens are frightened of being counted out by the in-crowd. Children are often frightened by the dark, their parents quarrels and divorces or being picked on, being left out. So what frightens you? For Peter, it was the wind, the waves and the fear of drowning. So often we are all frightened to get out of the boat. At the start of our gospel Peter does get out of the boat, he showed great faith in the Lord. In the beginning, He was faithful. To be faithful is to take a risk, just as Peter risked in stepping out of that boat.
Actually, the whole human bag is a risk. If you do not know that you have been living on cloud nine. In the measure that you are really alive you are risking. You take all sorts of chances without knowing how they will turn out. To marry is to risk, you risk your individual life in the hope of finding it more full with another. And today, the odds are only 50-50. To love is to risk, you open yourself to all the burdens that being loved lays on you and many crumble under it.
To be a top-flight doctor or lawyer, to be in business is a risk. You may end up terribly narrow and one-sided, closed to everything except your profession, your work. Simply to be free is to risk, you can say no to God and betray your Christ with a kiss. In a word, to live humanly is to launch out into a large unknown. To be a Christian is to risk, to begin with you commit yourself to a Christ you cannot see. Your act of faith is just as breathtaking as Peter stepping out of the boat.
Here you do violence to what you see and hear, touch and smell and taste. You see a criminal on a cross and you say, “My Lord and my God.” You hear words from a book and they turn for you into the word of God. You taste bread and you eat the body of Christ. It is a risk because you do not have certainty. And you realize that faith is more than nice thoughts and feelings. It determines your life. If we risk in committing ourselves to Christ who we can not see, we risk perhaps more in committing ourselves to a church we can see.
For this is a pilgrim church, a community on the way not yet there. A body of sinful men and women, at times in startling contradiction to the Lord who heads it. To the spirit who gives it life. And still it is Christ’s community, here is where He expects us to experience Him. And not only to endure it, but to love it. To take it for better or for worse. For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health until death.
Scripture tells us that to be a disciple of Christ you have to lose your life in order to find it. I do not know what life it is that Christ is asking you to surrender. What it is that keeps you from a deeper relationship with Him. What it is that weakens your faith, stops you from getting out of the boat. I do know it is one thing to be faithful when the issues are stark and clear. When you know the way to God and what will end well. When it does not cost anything, does not threaten your way of life.
But our life is not always like that. There are times when we are lost and we grope in the dark. When we are not sure when we are afraid to get out of the boat. When we want to rely and depend on someone or something else other than Christ. And so often we forget those wonderful words that we heard from St. Paul in last week’s reading.
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future. Nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any creature will be able to separate us from the Love of God that comes to us in Christ our Lord. The truth is we are never alone, note it was only when Peter took his eyes of Christ that he began to sink. In good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, keep your eyes on Christ.
I’m going to tell you a story. On a dark winter night in a small Midwest family community, the two-story home of a young family caught fire. The parents and children made their way through the smoke-filled home to the outside. As soon as they reached safety, the mother screamed, “Where is little John?” Just then they heard a wail and looked up to see their 5-year old son at the bedroom window, crying and rubbing his eyes.
The father stood under the window and called out, “Jump son. Jump and I will catch you.” In between sobs, the boy responded to the voice he knew so well. “But I can’t see you. Daddy, I can’t see you.” The father answered, “But I can see you, jump.” The boy with faith in his father jumped into the smoky darkness and found himself safely cradled in his father’s arms. Sometimes life is like that, we feel we are on the edge. Don’t know which way to turn. That’s the time to have enough faith to jump into our Father’s arms. That’s the time to get out of the boat and walk towards the Lord. When Peter started to sink, he didn’t try to swim back to the boat or call the other disciples for help, no, he called to Jesus. “Lord, save me.”