There seems to be a stark contrast between the reading from Kings and Matthew’s gospel. Elijah found God, not in the violence of natural phenomena, but in the gentle breeze. The disciples, on the other hand, were sent on the Lake of Galilee into a headwind and heavy sea. Yet perhaps there is not such a difference. Both events are linked by faith in God. Elijah found him in quietness, for God does not force his presence on us but comes often with soft whispers. We can be guided very gently into the decision which will have the best outcome for us. The disciples experienced God also in the presence of Jesus, God incarnate, who calmed the storm.
The image of Peter reaching out to Jesus to let him walk on the water is very like that of a small child stumbling towards its mother with its first steps. Like Peter, the child knows he will be caught in a strong embrace. Peter was learning to toddle in faith: he had a long way to go before he would walk steadily to meet his death, as he gave his life for his Master. We share Peter’s desire to walk on water and we share his fear of sinking as we struggle with our own faith when things become difficult.
The late Father Gerard Hughes SJ talked of a God of surprises. This is a God who cannot be pinned down to what seems to be best in human terms. If we allow him to lead us we can do things that we never imagined possible.