Peter - So Human, So Imitable
19th Sunday in OT

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

Of all the apostles, Peter manifests the most number of human traits and therefore the most imitable. For one, he was honest with his feelings. Thus after witnessing the miraculous catch of fish at daytime, he fell on his knees and told Jesus, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." He also had a lot of self-confidence. Thus when Jesus told the Twelve that one of them would betray Him, he said right away that it would never be him.

Peter was also a man of action; in fact, he often acted before thinking. Thus when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter struck a guard with a sword without any second thoughts. Finally, though stubborn, he was quick to change his mind after he was shown by Jesus to be wrong. Thus at the Last Supper, when Jesus was about to wash his feet, he strongly objected, "You will never wash my feet." But when told, "Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me," Peter immediately changed his mind and said, "Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well."

We see more indications of Peter's human traits in today's gospel reading (Mt. 14:22-33).

After the feeding of thousands with the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus ordered His disciples "to get into the boat and precede him to the other side." This because Jesus felt that the miracle they participated in might have bloated their heads and thus they needed time in prayer to regain their composure. While at sea that evening, their boat was buffeted by big waves. About three in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. When the other disciples saw Him, they were terrified and panicked, saying, "It is a ghost."

But not Peter - in a way. Instead what followed was the drama between Jesus and Peter which highlighted his humanity and faith.

When he heard Jesus say, "It is I! Don't be afraid," Peter told Him, "Lord, command me to come to you on the water." When Jesus said, "Come," Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus. But when the big waves rushed towards him and it became a situation between him and the big waves, he forgot about Jesus. He then began to sink. But recalling that Jesus was there, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" At that moment, Jesus must have been amused at the ever changeable Peter. He then extended His hand and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt."

Seeing all these, those left in the boat - mere spectators, really - could only say, "Truly, you are the Son of God."

One author has described Peter's humanity and faith very succinctly thus: "As long as Peter kept his focus on the Lord, all went well. As soon as he forgot about Jesus and worried about the wind, he began to sink. Perhaps this is what faith means: keeping our focus on the Lord regardless of the turmoil around us." Put another way and as scripture scholars tell us, fear and doubt are manifestations of how little our faith is.

So there is Peter in all his humanity which in turn had made him so lovable to Jesus. We can certainly identify with Peter and learn a lot from him in our daily struggle to live our faith!

When we fall or sin, how often do we say, "I am only human after all!" The problem is that we actually use this as the excuse for our sins and our lack of growth as human persons and as persons of faith. Thus when things go wrong, we blame our "being only human" for them. But when everything is going well, we proudly attribute everything to it: "You have not yet seen all the things I can do!"

How very much like Peter in his humanity and faith-life are we! "I am only human" was Peter's downfall and salvation. It is ours, too. Thus because we are human and therefore need courage, like Peter we can respond to Jesus' invitation, "It is I! Do not be afraid! Come!"

Because we are human and therefore weak and subject to fear, we can call on Jesus and say, "Lord, save me!" For with that cry goes the realization that we cannot save ourselves by our own power, but only by holding on to the hand that reaches out to save us--that of Jesus.

Because we are human and thus prone to trust in ourselves, Jesus can reprimand us with "You of little faith!" Because we are human and therefore can have faith, we can say with Peter, "Truly, you are the Son of God."

Finally, because we are human and therefore long for love, we can find solace and a home only in the heart of Jesus. There we will be more than "just human" for we have become Christ's brothers and sisters and His Father's sons and daughters.

May we learn from Peter's faith born out of humanity! And may he intercede for us so that like him, we may become more than "just human" but men and women of faith.