Jesus put out his hand at once and held him.
In today’s miracle story Jesus asks his disciples to put their trust totally in him especially during troubled times. We have been through our own Troubles and in memory of John Hume many are doing a reappraisal of those days. The story of Jesus holding out a helping hand to Peter gives hope and direction because our response to violence and terror depends on who we think Jesus is. Faith in Jesus can keep people calm so that they judge wisely and do what is right
So who is Jesus? All reasonable people acknowledge Jesus was a great preacher and healer who claimed a unique relationship with God his Father. But precisely because of those claims he got arrested, put on trial and executed. In his own non-violent way he was causing disturbance to the consciences of those abusing power. He wanted them to be converted to a new way of doing God’s will.
Even his own followers had much to learn about putting their trust in God as we see from today’s gospel when Jesus displays his power over the storm. Are we not like Peter who has good intentions yet allows his nerve to fail? We are reminded that we need his helping hand to overcome the trials of our time when the stormy sea of public opinion is so hostile to believers. We can easily become dispirited by the persistence of warfare and violence in our world especially when our own countries supply the weapons which allow the waves of terror and violence to drown so many nations in despair. In his day Jesus walked among the refugees and displaced. Without any recourse to violence he spoke out against those who enslaved their neighbours. He called for repentance and promised forgiveness. When he walked across the stormy waters he held out his hands in love and brought peace to Peter and his companions.
The miracle is a symbol of what he can do for suffering people with his divine power. Through him God comes among his people to deliver them from the evil represented by the violence of the storm. Jesus literally walks between earth and heaven and shows his disciples there is no need to be afraid even in the worst circumstances. He teaches us to judge wisely, to learn the lessons of history. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. In Szczcypiorski’s novel the harsh Nazi commandant of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw supervised a reign of terror. He justified his persecution of the Jews because he was obeying orders meticulously. A hard man with no sympathy for the weak he loved making a show and parading his might. He was on the winning side and that was all that mattered. Then the tide turned and he found himself a prisoner in the frozen wastes of Siberia where the winds chilled his bones to a pathetic death, a victim of exhaustion and starvation in a forced labour camp. He was a monstrous criminal yet I found myself saddened that his experience of life was so tragic. He was surrounded by cruelty, drowned in arrogance, grief and loneliness. It did not have to be so. He was enslaved to the notion of military supremacy and despised love. His cruelty was ultimately self-destructive.
With faith in Jesus we see a greater depth to a non-violent lifegiving existence. He can strengthen peacemakers who reject the supremacist philosophy that might is right. Today persecution and cruelty continue. Despite their bravado many leaders sink their people in resentment and anger. We ask Jesus who is humble in heart to walk with us and to lift our heads high and strengthen us to speak the truth and to change what we can. There have been politicians who spoke for non-violent resistance to evil and had hope-filled plans of the future. May we be blessed with such leaders in the future. May we all accept Jesus reaching out his hand in love, calling all sinners to be a new start.