In this Sunday’s Gospel, Matthew 14:22-33, Peter, at the call of Jesus, begins to walk on water. He was daring enough to risk this, but his faith faltered. Jesus grabbed him by the hand and then asked him, “Why did you do doubt, you of little faith?”
Sometimes I think we are a little too hard on Peter. The other apostles cowered in the boat, but he had the audacity to ask Jesus to call him out of the boat to walk on the water. Yet, when he lost sight of Jesus, he was afraid and started to drown.
On August 9, 1943, Franz Jägerstätter, Austrian peasant, husband, father of three girls, was beheaded for his refusal to take the military oath to serve in the Nazi army.
His story has moved me since I first read it in the 1960s in Gordon Zahn’s In Solitary Witness.
What is remarkable is that, despite the opposition to his stand of his neighbors and even of religious authorities, he persevered. He saw evil and refused to cooperate. Sustained by his faith in God and the love of his wife, Franziska, he persevered, even when the waves of the evil around him threatened him with death. As he wrote to his wife from prison:
“I am convinced that it is still best that I speak the truth, even if it costs me my life. For you will not find it written in any of the commandments of God or of the Church that a man is obliged under pain of sin to take an oath committing him to obey whatever might be commanded of him by his secular ruler.”
He persevered in his faith, despite death. The faith of the saints is not something that flounders when beset by difficulties. Though there may be doubts, these doubts strengthen the commitment to have confidence in God. As Franz wrote,
“If the road signs were stuck ever so loosely in the earth that every wind could break them off or blow them about, would anyone who did not know the road be able to find his way? And how much worse is it if those to whom one turns for information refuse to give him an answer or, at most, give him the wrong direction just to be rid of him as quickly as possible?”