In today’s Gospel reading, we hear Christ tell his disciples, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” At first glance, it makes sense they would be afraid; after all, they were out a few miles offshore in a little boat on a stormy sea. Sinking or going overboard would likely mean death. And, to make things even more terrifying, someone was approaching them, walking on water.
But Christ tells them not to be afraid. He is with them. He will bring them safely through the storm. We know from John’s first letter that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
Love of the Lord is what enabled Peter to step out of the boat and begin walking toward Jesus on the water. But, Peter’s love was not yet a perfect love; he doubted, and fear gripped him. He began to sink into the water.
And when he began to sink, our Lord was there to rescue him. Jesus knew that Peter’s love was not yet complete; Peter was a work in progress, just like every one of us is a work in progress. Peter made fine progress toward perfect love of the Lord in his lifetime, and we know his journey is complete; his love of God has been perfected, because that is what happens when one becomes a saint: one sees God completely and is able to respond to Him with a perfect love.
Though few reach a true perfection of love in this life, this perfection is precisely what our hearts should desire above all else, for it is in this perfection, which comes from the grace of God, that we are able to truly be what we were designed to be from the beginning: a friend of God.
In times of fear, we as Christians must remember that our strength is in the Lord and because of this, we need not truly fear, for when we walk with God we never stand alone.