When it comes to the story of Jesus walking on water (Mt 14:22-33), and reflecting upon it in the context of vocations, it would be easy to draw a straight line and conclude that without sufficient trust in Jesus, the potential for failure at our vocations is a very real possibility. But that feels a little too simplistic. (And a lot too black-and-white for me.) With that said, I find myself reflecting on Peter’s role in this story. Because really, when you think about it, Peter is the one who is knee-deep, literally and figuratively, in his vocation here.

The very definition of a vocation is that of a calling, and Peter had already answered the “big” call, dropping his nets and following Jesus. A call like that from the Master, himself, must have been fascinating, intriguing, and even exhilarating. From that point on, his days were filled with smaller calls – perhaps less exciting, perhaps a little confusing. And every day would have been demanding in some sense, whether physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or any combination of the four.

Where this gospel passage picks up, it would be reasonable to assume that Peter had already had a demanding day. Answering the call would have meant responding to the needs of countless people who were crowding in on him, trying to get to Jesus. What was he feeling at that point? Was he wishing for a break? Was he incredulous when Jesus told them to feed thousands of people? Was he embarrassed when Jesus did it after he’d declared it impossible? Was he inspired and thrilled at such an amazing miracle, or was he irritated at being proven wrong? Or was it just another ordinary day with Jesus?

And then Jesus went off by himself after sending Peter and the others out in the boat with instructions to go ahead to the next place without him. Was Peter annoyed that Jesus took off? Was he relieved to have a few minutes without the crowds? Did he resent Jesus for having alone time when it felt like he didn’t get to have any, himself? All of these questions are stirring in my mind, and so I find myself sitting in the boat with Peter, pondering the calls, big and little, when the storm whips up.

The disciples are knee-deep in water in their own boat, and Jesus shows up and calls Peter to yet another impossible task, telling him to walk out the very water that is threatening to drown him. (I can’t help but think it rather unfair of Jesus to ask him to do something so hard in the middle of a storm after a long day. To be fair, Peter asked for it. But Jesus didn’t have to take him up on it.) And so, Peter answers yet another call from the Master, and in obeying him, goes instantly from knee-deep to in way over his head.

I think it’s safe to say that can empathize with Peter, and that we’ve all experienced a range of emotions when it comes to own vocations. We’ve had good days and bad days, energizing days and exhausting ones, days when the call is easy to answer and days when it feels impossible. We’ve had days when we are in it knee-deep, convinced that this is what we were created to do, and we’ve had days when we beset by storms and are in so far over our heads that we are convinced we’re about to drown.

But when we read this story carefully, we are invited to a critical realization: sinking was never an option. Two things were absolutely certain – Jesus well and truly believed that Peter had it in him to do it, and he was there to help if Peter got in trouble. When we consider our vocations in light of Peter’s experience, we are given the same guarantees: Jesus would never ask us to answer his call if he didn’t think we could do it, and he’s there to help when it feels like we’re in way over our heads. Like Peter, we won’t sink either.

Dear Jesus, remind us that, with you, sinking isn’t an option. Bless us with the courageous, impetuously trusting heart of Peter, and call us out of the boat.

Darcie Lich
Vocation Team – Oblate Associate

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