Lord, if it is you . . . (Matthew 14:28)
A contemporary poet once wrote, “A good love is one that casts you into the wind, sets you ablaze, makes you burn through the skies and ignite the night like a phoenix; the kind that cuts you loose like a wildfire, and you can’t stop running simply because you keep on burning everything that you touch.”
Peter might agree with this description because this is the kind of love that he had for Jesus. From the moment he abandoned his fishing nets, he cast himself “into the wind” with Jesus, following him wherever he went and trying to imitate him. He even tried to walk on water for him! Though Jesus had to rescue him, it is inspiring that Peter got out of the boat in the first place. He couldn’t help himself; he just had to be where Jesus was.
In the same bold manner in which he stepped out onto the water, Peter promised at the Last Supper that he would never deny Jesus. But just as he foundered in the water, Peter gave into fear a few hours later—three times. But again, just as he did when Peter was sinking, Jesus rescued him, this time with a single glance (Luke 22:61). While that look made Peter aware of his sin, it also led him to repentance. According to Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher to the papal household, it was a look of “kindness that offers forgiveness.” “Gentle and silent,” it helped Peter remember Jesus’ love and gave him the courage not to give in to hopelessness but to keep trying to follow the Lord.
Peter knew he wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t focus on his failings. Instead, he kept his eyes on Jesus and persisted in taking the next step toward him, whether that meant trying to walk on water or repenting for his lack of faith. Jesus’ love for Peter had set his heart ablaze, and his heart continued to burn precisely because Peter didn’t give up.
Today, picture yourself looking into Jesus’ eyes, and try to receive his gentle look of love. As Pope Francis likes to say, Dejàte misericordiar, “Let yourself be ‘mercy’d.’” Surely your heart can burn with love as well.
“Lord, enkindle in me a desire to follow you and remain close to you my whole life.”