Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night,he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once (Jesus) spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Think of St. Peter, here is a man who had a front row seat to the miracles of Christ, who has being seeing wonder after wonder. Who literally just saw Christ multiply the loafs and the fishes to feed thousands and now sees Christ walking on the water, is invited to do the same and then after managing a few steps…doubts and begins to sink.
Nor of course is this the only case of Peter failing , even after the transfiguration, after Christ has given him the keys to heaven and declared that he is the rock upon who his church is going to be built, he still denies Christ and remember it wasn’t until he saw Christ going to Rome to be crucified again that he turned back to accept his will (Quo Vadis Domine)
It’s much like Exodus which I’m in the process of reading during my daily scripture. Here you have the children of Israel who saw all the mighty deeds of God in Egypt, who saw the Red Sea parted and when the water ran low still doubted God as if he would do all of these things only to kill them off completely.
These examples are vital, because they show us that the weakness of both Peter and the Children of Israel are not unnatural, and if they are not unnatural with those who have seen, how much more common is this a problem for those who have not?
In our Christian, lives how many times have we, knowing God’s commandments, knowing right from wrong chosen the wrong anyway? How many times have we failed to trust God, to worship God, to pray as he tells us to (“Ask and you shall receive“) and to persist in prayer.
Nor is this confined simply to Christian actions: How many times do we do things when we know better? How often have we acted impulsively, or foolishly when we knew that these actions had bad consequences? This is a problem that goes beyond religion, it’s a completely human weakness.
God understands this weakness. Knowing we are sinful, he provides Christ to die for our sins and redeem us. Knowing that we are flawed he provides the example of Mary conceived without sin as our mother to pray and intercede for us with her son as only a mother can. Knowing we are weak he provides the examples of both scripture and tradition to see how he has over and over used those who are weak and provided them strength and finally, knowing we are different is so many ways he provides us with the saints, people like us from all different walks of life we managed, even if they stumbled initially to find their way to God and are willing to help their brothers along that same path pointing the way to Christ.
That is the significance of the story of Peter and Christ walking on water that and one more thing.
Never forget that before he took the time to admonish Peter for the lack of faith he first reached out his hand. May we be willing to see and grasp that outstretched hand of God when it is offered.