Why did Peter jump out of the boat and onto the water?
What was he trying to do?
Jesus was walking toward the boat to get in as he had earlier in this same Gospel of Matthew in chapter 8, so why the theatrics?
My bet is that Peter suffered from an early form of narcissistic clericalism and Jesus thought, okay, but what your really need, Peter, is a good dose of humility and Jesus said, “Come,” and Peter did and made a fool of himself.
Jesus clearly did not want people to please him as much as he wanted people to follow him but we find that hard too do.
Years ago, at a CSA, Catholic Services Appeal, “kickoff” for the priests, Bishop Melczek, third bishop of Gary, made the statement that any priest, ‘who could not make their parish CSA goal and pay the bill shouldn’t be a pastor.’
I raised my hand and asked the bishop, ‘if there were any other things that would disqualify a priest from being a pastor?’
He didn’t answer because the only thing that mattered was the money, just the money, nothing else. It wasn’t his fault, that is more than likely what he honestly understood and how he was treated.
I suspect, that was the only qualification, being a kind of salesman, selling memberships, seats, and CSA that is just what we were expected to do, sell “stuff,” especially ourselves to authority.
I do not say this to fault the bishop because in much if not most of our conventional thinking it is money that matters. And we do sell ourselves in one way or another.
Money matters to me, but in this my second summer of retirement I am finding the time and the leisure to think more deeply about my life as I near the finish line and make my final approach before landing.
John’s Gospel talks a lot about the “world” and that is often interpreted as a “place” opposed to “heaven” but the world in the Gospel of John is not a place, any more than “heaven” is a place.
John is not creating a conflict, a dualistic conflict as religious folks are often inclined to do, between the secular and the so called sacred, heaven and earth, “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
No, I think John is describing a mindset a consciousness, an assumptive world view, that thinks and acts in a very calculating and measured way. That is why money becomes so important it can be counted, it measures much more than the sum total, it can symbolize so many, many things that give us the illusion of statistics and objectivity.
Money gives us a sense of security and, in our minds if we have money, a sense of permanence of sorts, but despite all efforts to the contrary, we die. That is something that is important t learn and I do not think in general that we can learn that when we are young.
A developing trend in American religion, exaggerated in American Catholicism, I am afraid, is the “prosperity Gospel” which, often quite explicitly, believes and teaches that money is the reward given by God to what is called, “faithful Catholics” who believe like Peter that they need to please Jesus rather than follow Jesus.
The Gospel of John challenges that mindset with the various stories he creates to challenge our needs to count and measure. The “first sign” in the Gospel of John is the abundant and good wine at that wedding in Cana of Galilee, remember?
The Gospel stories this summer from Matthew try to get us to shift our consciousness from a world of fear and anxiety, a world that we find filled with envy and scarcity, to a consciousness of trust and realistic hope without dependence or worse, co-dependence, on money and health and ourselves in a very, very small world.
I offer you for your thoughts, the Nobel Prize–winning Polish poet Czesław Milosz’s poem, Love:
Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.
Learning to please authority is one of the things that we do when we are young but as we age, we hopefully, grow out of that and develop more life-giving ways to spend ourselves.
This summer of 2023 I am finding to be just a bit like the summer of 1963, the summer I graduated from high school, a summer of long afternoons, leisure to think and play, and discover all kinds of things about myself, my life, and the world that I have overlooked.