In this 1907 painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, we share the mystery of that Galilean night when the disciples see Jesus walking on water. It is night-time and they cannot make out anything clearly, yet the darkness is no longer truly dark. Lake, sky and distant hills are all suffused in a soft blue glow of extraordinary loveliness. Where is this light coming from? Is it the reflection of moonlight on water… or has heaven inexplicably seeped into our world, bathing everything in wonder?
Peter is standing, peering blindly into the heavenly light. “Take heart, it is I,” the ghostly figure assures him, but the disciples are terrified and huddle together. Peter challenges the apparition: “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come to you on the water!”
Shrinking … confronting…daring to engage… we all react differently. At difficult moments, we may fail to recognise Jesus coming to our help. Catherine McAuley knew what it was to exercise faith; to let go of the safe and the familiar; to be invited to step into a dimension where she would certainly sink if it were not for God’s providence. For us, too, this, perhaps, is a ‘go forward or stay back’ moment.
“Lord, save me!”
“Come!” says Jesus, reaching out a hand…