During his homily at yesterday’s wedding, the pastor remarked that in his twenty-three years as a priest, it was the first time this reading appeared as a choice of a bride and groom:
After he had fed the people, Jesus made the disciples get into a boat
and precede him to the other side,
while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.
When it was evening he was there alone.
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore,
was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified.
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
He said, “Come.”Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”After they got into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.”
What a sparkling choice! It was well-preached with this simple and direct message: As long as the two of you keep your gaze fixed on Jesus, troubles and storms will not be able to sink you. You will be able to walk on water.
And indeed, doesn’t Peter get a bad rap for this story? He was, after all, strong enough in faith to be able to walk on water. It was only when his focus wavered to the storm that he faltered.
I was talking with a parishioner about this last night and she remarked that walking on water wasn’t one of the choices for a wedding. And she’s right–it’s not. But for a couple who truly believe the teaching contained here, and if they are indeed willing to place their focus on Christ and their faith in Christ, this passage is indeed an inspired choice. And perhaps the Catholic wedding lectionary needs some reform along these lines. Fewer passages that speak of love in such a way that easily descends to platitudes and idealism. More passages that prefigure the inevitable storms and obstacles that any married couple will confront. And imparting courage and conviction to such people, giving them the tools to triumph over the winds and waves of life.
For you engaged couples out there: do you dare turn to this Gospel? Are you prepared to turn your gaze away from your beloved’s eyes and together, hand in hand, look to Christ, and step out into the storm? If so, you are certain to find a thrilling, grace-filled adventure as wife and husband. And you will be a sign for many, many others who need such witness of married love grounded in grace and faith.