19th Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year A

Posted on August 11, 2023 View all Gospel Reflection

To walk on water like Peter means to miraculously suspend the force of gravity so the surface tension of the water does not break as you walk across it. Spiritually, however, to walk on water means to perform a task where the challenge greatly exceeds one’s level of skills without becoming anxious and stressed.

The first prerequisite needed to walk on water is a clear conscience which enables one to bear exceedingly much and is joyful amid adversities.   Timothy 1:19 says a guilty conscience makes shipwreck of one’s faith.

Part of having a good conscience means you are not trying to be spectacular or famous or praised for your ability to walk on water. Do you know what the last words of a redneck are? “Hey, guys, watch this.”

Consider that Satan tempted Jesus to vainglory, “If you are the Son of God, jump off this temple roof because the Scriptures say, ‘God will command his angels to help you, and their hands will catch you.” (Matthew 4:6)

2. The second prerequisite needed to walk on water is that although the task greatly exceeds your level of skills, nevertheless the challenge must be within your calling and vocation.

Peter was a professional fisherman who was evidently used to jumping into the water (without hurting his leg on the edge of the boat as he jumped) John 21:7. 

Psalm 131:1 tells us to avoid a proud heart that gets involved with things too high for our capacity.

Thus, “It would be narcissistic to declare that God has called you to be the world’s greatest pianist, and then expect him to download the necessary talent into you after years of mediocre piano playing and lukewarm practicing.”1 You will sink due to a lack of discernment and prudence.

When Peter walks on water, an inceptive aorist is used, “he began to walk– with Jesus apparently envisioned standing in place as Peter approaches his position (Matt 14:28-31).”2

Plus, for “Peter’s brief walk, the evangelist uses the prepositional phrase ‘upon the waters’ Matt 14:29), not ‘the sea:’ probably because Peter only intends to cover the distance separating him from Jesus. He wants to walk a particular tract of water, not “the sea as such”’3

If our goals or plans are too general or too far out in the future, we can’t see Jesus and walk toward him.

As far as how to spiritually walk on water:

Acknowledge the wind and waves. Peter began his initial walking on water during the fourth watch of the night, between 3 AM and 6 AM.

Jesus said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness. Catechism, 2088

Float past tension and fear- If we simply say to ourselves that this is where we are, in this fear, and there is no point fighting it, we’ll find a much greater sense of peace than if we continue to battle. In child-birth preparation class, the mother is taught to breathe through the contractions. Let time pass, be patient in faith, and we will see that some “anxiety,” is part of the journey just as Jesus felt it during his Passion. Do not be impatient with time.4   

Peter got out of the boat. If you want to walk on water, you got to get out of the boat. Your boat could be your house, your car, your job, your relationships, your vocation and mission—do something for God with them that you have not done before.

1.     Article / Produced by TOW Project, Theology of Work, theologyofwork.org

2.     Brian D. McPhee, Walk, don’t run: Jesus’s water walking is unparalleled in Greco-Roman mythology, Journal of Biblical Literature, 135 no 4 2016, p 763-777

3.     Ibid. Brian D. McPhee

4.     Claire Weekes Publications website