Nineteenth Sunday, Year A, 13 August, 2023: 1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew14:22-33
It’s too easy for a preacher to present Simon Peter as an impulsive, unthinking negative example for Christian disciples to avoid. Granted, none of the twelve Apostles garner high marks in comprehension during Jesus’ lifetime, but to reduce them to bad examples is to underestimate Jesus’ judgment for he intentionally chose each one of them.
There’s much in Peter’s actions, even in today’s Gospel, which unveils the considerable potential Jesus recognized in him. But before exploring that, it must also be admitted that Peter’s capacity for criticism and correction, his willingness to persevere and learn from his mistakes and to never be inhibited by shame is impressive. When others would cower in their widely-witnessed humiliation, dissemble and make excuses—or even shift blame—Peter never pretends to be other than he is. Is that unpretentious honesty what drew Jesus’ attention to him?
Once Peter recognizes Jesus as the one walking on the water, he asks permission to do the same. This is a sort of act of faith and obedience: faith in Jesus’ authority and submission of Peter’s desire to Jesus’ judgment. Would someone with an arrogant, inflated ego even bother to ask?
And when Peter’s fear causes him to falter, he knows enough to entreat the Lord to save him. How many of us can claim as much when, overwhelmed by doubts, we begin to sink?