…When Peter Saw How Strong the Wind was He Became Frightened; and Began to Sink…
We can just imagine what the other eleven Apostles of Our Lord were thinking when Peter stepped out of that boat that fateful night [Mt 14:22-33]. “What? You’re crazy going out there!” Yet off Peter went. What was Peter’s motivation? Why did he step out of that boat on the Sea of Galilee? The answer is ultimately that Peter was seeking Jesus on a deeper level. And, just as “nothing ventured nothing gained”, so Peter would risk all – his very life – in pursuit of The Lord. So the question for us is: Am I risking anything to seek out Jesus? Certainly
I give things, but am I really giving my very self, my very person? Am I really seeking Jesus out on an intimate level?
A Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ
These days we hear a lot about a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ’. The question is usually put to us by evangelicals. However, if we are going to be Christians then it would seem that that is ‘The Question’. After all, in Christ’s day people would fight to get closer to him in the crowds, some even tore a hole through a roof! Even the Apostles themselves argued about being the one closest to Jesus. ‘But who is’, we may ask, ‘closest to Jesus these days?’ And how precisely is it that they are close to Jesus? To describe this ‘closeness’ The Church usually uses the word ‘holy’. People universally recognize that Christian holiness is tied in some way to closeness to Christ, faithful prayer, and right living; that faithful prayer is the means of union with God, and right living is the fruits of this union. We see this in the lives of the saints: they prayed faithfully, perseveringly, and thus lived upright lives in union with Christ. So a ‘personal relationship
with Jesus Christ’ is one that is based in faithful prayer and having consequent fruits [Gal 5:22].
What is Prayer?
Prayer is the raising of one’s heart (will) and mind (intellect) to God. Specifically for Christians we would add, ‘in and through Christ Jesus’. It is more than a communication (a text message or a ‘selfie’), for it is a communion of one’s very being with God Himself. Think: ‘candlelight intimacy’. For faithful prayer to take place there must be a certain amount of quiet and solitude. The reason for this is that when one shares their very heart and soul, it must be within an atmosphere of silent intimacy. This is the notion of the monk, the ‘monastic’ [from Greek, monos single, alone]: to be alone with God. Thus, to have a personal interior prayer one must have their heart and the mind wrapped in silent intimacy with God, which requires a certain degree of focus upon The Person Who is God. We usually do this through a meditation upon the mysteries of the life of Christ, Who is the Person of God (e.g. rosary). We use our mind and imagination placing ourselves in the gospel scene, being with The Lord, and opening our hearts to allow The Lord to be with us, and in us, so as to elicit our will to love of Him. Thus faithful prayer, with its consequent fruits of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, will happen only if we take time for silence, solitude, and focus (meditation); prayer cannot take place in the midst of willful distractions. Distractions may come, but we have to wrestle with them as Jacob did with the angel [Gen 32:24]. We have to actively fight against distractions in the very thoughts of our minds.
The Gospel, Prayer, and our Relationship with Jesus Christ
This leads us back to the Gospel and St. Peter being distracted by the elements of the earth. The wind, the waves, and the storm – the violence of the world around us – fights against the progress of Peter (who represents The Church at prayer). Peter doubted, for he took the eyes of his mind off The Lord and looked to his surroundings which were frightening; he thus despaired of reaching Christ, so he began to sink into the depths. This “sinking” is what is experienced by every Christian who is ultimately tempted by sin. This “sinking” is a type of ‘seduction’ (a leading under) that all people experience to some degree or another. In order for St. Peter to reach his objective (union with Christ) he needed to place his focus upon Christ. He needed to “mind the Lord”, blocking out the things of this world in a kind of solitude of the mind, quieting his curious intellect, silencing his fearful imagination, and waiting upon The Lord, trusting that He would meet Him halfway on this journey (remember, Jesus was moving toward Peter). The first step out of the boat was made by focusing upon Christ. It would only be by maintaining that focus – that meditation – that Peter would meet Christ. Peter had to overcome the things that willfully distracted him from his union with The Lord.
Successful Union with God in Christ Jesus
In conclusion, we see how a personal relationship with Jesus Christ comes about. A person must take time for silence, solitude, and focus, that is, prayerful meditation, all the while fighting perseveringly against willful distractions. The first step must be to focus on Christ Who calls us out of the false security of our boat (comfort zone) onto a wonderful journey of faithful personal prayerful intimacy. Perhaps the most difficult thing for us, as American utilitarians with our strong work ethic, is to embrace the time for silence and solitude necessary (we tend to think this is wasted time). We find ourselves constantly wrapped up in the elements of this world and the willful distractions that keep us from The Lord. However, we will not find The Lord in these things anymore than Elijah finds God in the terrible signs of wind, earthquakes, and fire. But should we persevere, in silence and in solitude, we will find The Lord as Elijah did in the “tiny whispering sound” [I Kings 19:12] by which the God of the Universe is made personally and intimately known to us. Above all, if we silence ourselves we will hear God speak. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta spoke of a “saint-making” pattern that begins with silence...
The fruit of Silence is Prayer
The fruit of prayer is Faith
The fruit of Faith is Love
The fruit of Love is Service
The fruit of service is Peace
Perhaps one could add . . . The fruit of Peace is Joy (Happiness)
“BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD” Psalm 46:10
“WHEN YOU SEEK THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, THEN YOU WILL FIND HIM” Dt 4:29
“To visit the Blessed Sacrament is … a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ Our Lord” (Pope St. Paul VI). Catechism of the Catholic Church #1418
Dr. Thomas Saaty, was a University of Pittsburgh mathematician and systems analyst who wais also an authority on waiting lines or queues, as scientists call them.” [NY Times February 11, 1982] estimates that Americans spend up to five years of their lives in that tedious, stressful but unavoidable process known as waiting. Not to mention the time wasted on television and web surfing. Maybe we could use a fraction of that time, those years, in raising our heart and mind to God.