Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
There is no body of water close to the old center of São Paulo. Once surrounded by rivers, the names of some of the streets reveal that there was even a tiny port. Today all we find are highways and tarred roads. The river is still there and active. We cannot see or access its resources. It is hidden underground. In a way, we are walking above the river. It is not the same as walking on it. We are not aware of the river running below our feet but it is there.
The story from the gospel is peculiar but not the part about Jesus walking on water. This shouldn’t surprise those who have faith in Him. We believe He is God incarnate. He is not dominated by nature. It is Peter’s attitude that I find to be strange. Why would anyone sane want to walk on water? He was a fisherman. He should know that the sea is a temperamental wild beast. However, Peter wasn’t thinking about this. He wanted to be like Jesus. This was his only inspiration and he also walked on water. Just a few steps though before reality sank in and his body followed suit. This is the most logical part of the story. It is something that we all can identify with him. I would panic if I was in the same situation as him. Jesus seemed a little unfair. He said that Peter had little faith when he did exactly what was normal for any human being. We were not meant to be walking on water and yet Jesus made it possible for Peter to do something that goes against his human nature.
I read this passage in the beginning of the week. The past few weeks have been chaotic for us. All the previous violent episodes had thrown us into some sort of a spiritual turmoil. I thought that perhaps I should start the week with the lectionary gospel reading to help bring things into focus. After all, the gospel is good news regardless of the circumstances. Initially I could not find all the necessary dots to connect this gospel reading with our lives.
The week was atypical but I could say this about every week in the streets. The children found a puppy, they fell in love with it and this love was mutual. He was their constant and happy companion. There was always someone giving it attention including us. Then, the dog took ill and the children came to us for help. The children in general are very protective over their pets. They would go without food to ensure that their dog was fed. They sensed something was seriously wrong with the dog. We told them that we would find a free vet close by and we found one on the day itself. Unfortunately, it was too late. The dog contracted a virus that attacked its nervous system and it died that very night. When we arrived to take the dog to the vet, the children were awaiting us to give us the tragic news. They shared the painful ordeal they experienced with their beloved pet. They said that they called different public vets and one said that he would see the dog if they paid him a large sum of money. The children were desperate and finally the dog had a violent convulsion and was no more. We heard the story in different versions. It was something they needed to share with someone who would understand. Felipe said that they sat down and cried when the dog died. They knew that it was part of life. We had taken a picture of Felipe with the dog a few days ago. The children were glad that at least they have a photo to remember it. They are not pet-less. They have another dog with them. It was abandoned too. They asked us if we would take it the vet just to ensure it was fine. It was really Alex’s dog because he found it. However, Alex looks like he is 12 even though he is turning 17 in a few weeks time. We needed someone from the streets who was above 18 to go with us to the vet because they only give free treatment for homeless people. We are afraid that they might take the dog from Alex thinking that he is a minor and incapable of taking care of a dog. I asked Felipe to do it. He was a little reluctant. He was emotionally exhausted but he eventually acquiesced. He knew that it was the right thing to do.
The scene was like a scene from a family. The children waited for us to share this tragic tale because we loved the dog too. It was a wonderful dog. It used to sit close to us when we did activities with the children and we certainly miss its presence. They knew that we would understand. However, it would have never crossed my mind that living the gospel would mean consoling children over the death of a dog. It would be crazy to share this at church meeting and say that we are going to another country to help children find a vet for their dogs. The gospel, however, makes us do the unexpected. Things that we used to think that are trivial or impossible become a viable means of expressing love. The children were waiting for someone who would understand their loss. They shared everything that happened. It gave them comfort to know that there was someone who was willing to understand them. The dog died and it wasn’t their fault. They did everything to save it. While it was alive, it never lacked love. They gave to the dog the unconditional love that perhaps they never experienced in their homes.
Like I said, the rivers and streams are still running through the streets where we work. Just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean Jesus is not beckoning us to walk with Him on water. It is not about doing something spectacular. It is just being willing to do something that is unusual for us. It is being willing to allow the gospel to take us to places that we don’t usually want to go or do this things that we might think are trivial. It is easy to disregard the whole incident as something banal. Thankfully, I started the week reading this gospel text. It was helped us look to the One who walks on water for wisdom instead of merely looking at circumstances and disregarding the valuable spiritual lesson hidden within.