Standing over the shot last Saturday afternoon, I think I was feeling a little like Peter must have felt when Jesus told him to step out of the boat.
A little background: I had the rare opportunity to play a world-class golf course with a dear friend that day.
By the time we’d made the turn at Boone Valley Golf Club and were a few holes into the back nine, I noticed something delightful. For the first time in a long time, I was making decent contact with my driver – hitting the fairway on almost every occasion.
And so it was on Hole #13 – a gorgeous little number that plays from an elevated tee to an expansive fairway 40+ feet below. My drive went soaring straight as an arrow, nestling right smack dab in the middle of the landing area. Not a terribly long drive though…and it left me about 175 yards from the center of the green.
175 yards…almost all carry…over a glistening little lake.
My heart sank as the reality of the situation settled in. I can hit a ball 175 yards…but my weapon for that distance is a 5-iron, one of my least-favorite clubs in the bag. Success rate for a clean strike? Probably 25 percent or so. And I’d need solid contact this time around, if I ever wanted to see that golf ball again.
My playing companion reminded me that there was another option: Bail out to the left, with a nice comfy little 7- or 8-iron. Take the water out of play…and set my sights on “bogey.”
Ah, but I’m guessing you know how this tale ends.
Of course, I had a lot less at stake than did Peter in the gospel passage we heard at Mass today.
When the disciples saw [Jesus] 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.”
No doubt about it: Stepping out of that boat took a lot more courage than reaching for a 5-iron last Saturday afternoon. Still, as I reflected on the story today, I noticed something intriguing: The more Peter thought about the particulars of his situation, the less progress he made toward the Lord.
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 him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I’ve always tended to think of Jesus’ words to Peter as a chastisement. But perhaps that assessment is a little unfair—to both the Master and the disciple. Perhaps it’s more like an encouragement: Jesus pointing out that fears, both large and small, are simply a fact of life. And that true discipleship requires us to face our fears. To embrace the grace available to us in the moment. To keep on walking (or swinging), even when we are afraid.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.