A long time ago, I saw an image that left a huge impact on me. Jesus standing on the rough waves amidst the storm, the apostles’ boat in the background, reaching down to catch a half-sunken Simon Peter by the hand. It was captioned: “Focus on me, not the storm.”
It’s a powerful scene in the Gospel. Jesus is walking towards the apostles as their boat is tossed and turned and they wonder if they’ll make it to shore safely. He has gone away to be alone after the feeding of the 5,000. The twelve are not expecting to see Him at all, much less to see Him walking on the water. When they do, they say it must be a ghost. They don’t even consider it could be the Son of Man. They’re afraid.
What’s interesting to me is not their confusion at seeing a figure walking towards them on the water and mistaking it for a ghost instead of Jesus. It’s that John is the first person to see Jesus. At any point in the Gospel when Jesus is rejoining the apostles (seeing Him post-resurrection on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias comes to mind), John is always the first to see Him. John is always the first to say, “It is the Lord.”
John is always looking for Jesus.
“But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-33)
When Simon is focusing on God, not the storm, he is able to leave the boat and walk on the water toward Jesus. When he becomes overwhelmed by the crashing waves around him, he begins to sink. But Jesus does not let him drown.
The pastor at my parish once put it eloquently in a homily about this Gospel: “We all have a little Peter in us.”
We really do. All of us walk through our storms, our waves, our fears. We watch the water and the wind, not the light in front of us. We sink, over and over again, through our struggles in life. For as long as we can, we walk “on our own,” and then finally call out to be saved, and are never disappointed.
I find it amazing, and disappointing, that I sometimes still focus on the storm instead of God. Every crisis in my life has worked out for the better beyond whatever outcome I was praying for. I have the life I have always wanted. And somehow, I still see the waves and the wind instead of the Lord’s hand reaching out to catch out.
We all have a little Peter in us. It’s a whole lot easier to be Peter than it is to be John. I often ask myself…
“Who are you looking at?”