I’ve always found it difficult to see the main message in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 15, about Jesus walking on the water and inviting Peter to do the same. There is nothing in our human experience to suggest that walking on water is possible, so I find myself asking what else is being said here, looking for something to guide me in the more ongoing and everyday experiences of human life. This is because I can’t help but thinking that if I spend my life trying to walk on water, I will have really missed the point.
Two things jump out at me in particular: the invitation and the rescue. First, Jesus does invite Peter to do something really amazing, and I think we are invited to do extraordinary things, too. Through the Incarnation and his life on earth, Jesus showed us what humans are meant to be. We are meant to be loving, forgiving, compassionate, and merciful. We are meant to question and challenge figures of authority who seem to have forgotten that leadership means service to others, not protection of privilege and influence at all costs. Finally, we are meant to remain faithful to our deepest convictions and our central identity as beings created in the image and likeness of God. This might seem daunting, but I doubt most of us see it as miraculous. Human history and today’s news, though, are rife with stories of war, murder, deceit, and the worship of wealth and power. So when you look at that long tale, the humanity that Jesus invites us into really is extraordinary.
Second, there is the rescue. As I already mentioned, living in the way we are meant to live looks pretty daunting when we consider some aspects of the social and political reality in which we are trying to live, as well as the human jealousies, selfishness, and pettiness that each and every one of us is all too familiar with. So, we can probably count on failing or falling short with quite a bit of regularity. But God reaches out to us, like Jesus reaching out to Peter. Our focus on living the life that Jesus has revealed to us sometimes falters, but if we are open to and strive for that life, we won’t be allowed to drown. God doesn’t write us off every time we fail to live up to our deepest identity, thank goodness! Instead, God continually invites and reaches out to us when we need it, pulling us at our core and pushing us to be who God desires us to be.
If I examine my everyday experiences, where have I failed to live in a Christ-like way? Where and how do I feel continually called and pulled to change my ways? What do I need to do in my life in order to be open to and recognize when God is reaching out to me? Maybe it’s more regular prayer and reflection, journaling about daily experiences, or conversation with a family member, friend, or spiritual advisor. These can be some intentional avenues for us to watch for God’s hand reaching out to pull us up as we are continually invited to live in an extraordinary way.
By Craig Zimmer