In today’s Gospel from Matthew, Jesus sent his disciples off in a boat after dismissing the crowds he had been teaching. Later that evening, as they are being tossed around on the water in their boat, they see a figure coming toward them on the water. When they realize it is Jesus, impetuous Peter says to Jesus, “If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus says “Come.”
I had a powerful experience praying with this passage during one of my early Ignatian retreats, at a time when I was still grappling with my level of trust – in God as well as in myself.
I was doing an Ignatian Contemplation with this scene – the method of praying with an episode of Jesus’ life where we put ourselves right into the scene. During my prayer, I was in the boat with the disciples. I heard Peter’s request and Jesus’ response. I then watched Peter take a few steps toward Jesus and then fall into the water.
After Peter fells and got picked up, Jesus, somehow again across the water, looked at me from where he stood on the water, inviting me out of the boat. I stepped onto the water. My eyes on Jesus, I took a step, but then, like Peter had, I started to fall. In an instant, Jesus, from across the water was right at my side, lifting me up by the hand.
At that moment it was as thought a record skipped (a description that requires one be old enough to remember LPs to understand), as over and over again I fell and Jesus picked me up. I fell and Jesus picked me up. Over and over and over. What I heard, reminiscent of the cell phone commercial that was common a few years ago (“Do you hear me yet?”), was: “Do you get it yet? Do you get it yet?”
I remember thinking, as I was both falling and being lifted up and watching this falling and lifting up taking place over and over again, “How long are we going to do this? How many times are we going to do the same thing?” To which the response was: “For as long as it takes. We’ll do it as many times as it takes for you to get that I will not stop. Over and over again. Until you understand that no matter how many times you fall, I will help you up.” This experience did much to shore up my trust and faith in God.
Jesus will always be there.