If we take the story of Peter walking on water in a literal sense it has little or no relevance for us. However, if we look at it symbolically there is much meaning in it for our lives. The boat represents the Church; the winds and the waves stand for the persecutions that the early Christians had to endure. Jesus is not with them physically; he is in heaven, praying to the Father for them. However, in their hour of need he makes his presence felt among them, calming their fears and bringing them peace.
Some people think that if you have enough faith, life will be smooth sailing. But this is not so. Faith does not shield us from the difficulties that come our way in life. We see this in the lives of the early Christians. They were people of faith but had to endure great hardships and persecutions, having their faith in Christ tested. However, even though the Lord was not physically present to them, they felt his spiritual presence giving them strength to carry on.
The account of Peter walking on water is especially enlightening. It represents something that really happened to Peter. It is a reference to his failure during the passion, and his restoration after the Resurrection.
Initially he is full of faith as he sets out across the water. We recall his words at the Last Supper, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.” But then come doubt and cowardice, and he begins to sink, so that Jesus has to rescue him. Peter represents the typical disciple of the present time, caught between faith and doubt.
It is comforting for us to see that at times the apostles and early Christians were weak and fearful. In other words, they were just like us. We may feel we are filled with faith, but when the winds blow and we are confronted with the storms of life, we discover that our faith may not be as strong as we thought. It is then that we turn to the Lord for help. It is in our weak moments that we experience the strength of God. If we never felt ourselves sinking in the water, then we would never know the saving power of God.
Today’s Gospel account shows us the power of faith especially during the most challenging times in life. It reminds us of the presence of the Lord at all times. And it is okay for us to make a humble petition to the Lord from time to time, as did the apostles, “Lord, increase our faith!”
— Father Dennis, August 13, 2017