As the reading from the Book of Kings opens in today’s Mass, the prophet Elijah had just proved God’s power and majesty over 450 false prophets of the pagan god Baal.  Queen Jezebel was humiliated and embarrassed and reacted with great anger against Elijah; so he fled to Mount Horeb to pray.  Mt. Horeb was the mountain where Moses met God and received the 10 Commandments.

Taking refuge in a cave, Elijah heard the Lord commanding him to go outside and stand on the mountain. He expected the Lord to reveal Himself in power of nature – as He had done with Moses and the Israelites in the wilderness. Nature obliged in winds of hurricane force, in earthquakes, and in fire; but God was not to be found in any of these displays of nature. Finally, there was a “tiny whispering sound” – literally the sound of silence.  In the hush he experienced the presence of God.

All of us are searching for God; in fact, our whole life is a search for a deeper union with God – where can we find Him?  The answer Elijah discovered 3000 years ago, is probably the best answer to where we will find God today, We usually do not find Him in noisy, rocking, agitated, or excited times or places. We usually don’t find Him in apparitions, visions, or unusual revelations; God seems to speak to us and be closest to us in times and places of quiet, silence, and prayer – in the Eucharist.

In the Gospel today, after the feeding of the twenty-five thousand people and the revealing of the Eucharist, Jesus retreated “to the mountain by Himself to pray.”  While he was praying, His Apostles were heading for the other side of the lake.  All of a sudden, a very strong storm developed, and the Apostles were filled with fear and confusion.  They were being tossed about by the wind and the waves. All of a sudden, Jesus came walking upon the surface of the water.  

In their fear, the apostles thought that they were seeing a ghost. Jesus called to them: “Take courage! It is I”.  Do not  be afraid.”  Peter called out: “Lord, if it is really you, command me to come to You on the water! “Come” Jesus said, so Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water, moving toward Jesus.”  

The words “moving toward Jesus” hold the key to the passage. By walking on the water, Peter was not trying to show off to the other Apostles. He was trying to come to Jesus and put his complete trust in Him. Peter was centering on Jesus not on the water.  His eyes, his heart, his mind, and his feet were directed toward Jesus. He wanted to get close to Jesus who was his master, his teacher, his Lord, and his life. Peter’s faith was such that he would go wherever Jesus was.  

As long as he was focused on Jesus, Peter was successful.  But then Peter got distracted.  His focus on Jesus began to flicker and fail. Then he noticed how strong the wind was and how deep the water would be.  

He became terrified and began to sink.  Then he did what every sinking person does.  He called for help: “Lord save me!”  Jesus reached out, grasped his hand and led him to safety in the boat.  Jesus’ words were addressed to all of us: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

Like Peter, when we lose a sense of our footing and faith, when we go off on tangents of our own, when we stop moving on our journey to the House of our Father; we stand on the flimsy footing of water.  We have stopped listening to the quiet voice of Jesus and the Church which He established.  We become as frightened as Peter and we listen to the strong violent wind of contemporary society teaching a counter Gospel of darkness.     

We can all identify with Peter. There are times when we feel that we are walking on water – there is nothing solid to stand on or believe in. There are times when we feel that we are drowning in a sea of trouble, and we are too tired and frightened to swim – be it a serious illness, the loss of someone we love through death, unemployment, a move to a new job or to a new place, family crisis financial problems that keep getting worse; these are the times when we can identify with Peter and the other Apostles in their wind-tossed-ship.  Yet, these are also the times that we can cry out with Peter: “Lord save me!” 

Peter had great faith; yet like us, he was swamped by doubts and fears.  Peter’s doubts and fears teach us that Jesus understands and sympathizes with us. Jesus will never abandon us because of them.  

When Peter began to sink, he cried out: “Lord save Me!”  He knew that he had made a mistake.  He may have forgotten about Jesus for a moment; he may have even thought that he didn’t need Jesus:  but the moment he saw how dangerous things were, he instinctually turned to the Lord.  

Jesus calls out to us right here and now stretching out his hand to lift us up from the waves of fear and doubt.  Jesus never abandons us. With Peter, we must look to Jesus, focus on Jesus, keep moving toward Jesus as He keeps moving toward us.  He stretches out His nail-pierced hands and catches us just as He caught Peter.  Focus on the Lord rather than on the distractions of our culture and the difficulties of our lives.  May we always cry out to Jesus in the quiet of our lives: “Lord save me!”