Summary: Jesus entered the boat; Jesus is the master of the Church. The disciples–that’s you and I–we follow Him into the boat.
24th Sunday after Pentecost 2018
“At that time, Jesus entered into the boat, and His disciples followed Him.” In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.
The stories of the Holy Gospel are interesting reading in themselves, and sometimes even exciting. Here we have the tale of Jesus and His disciples being caught out on the Sea of Tiberias when a storm brews up and they are all nearly drowned. But when He is asked, Jesus rises up and commands wind and sea, and they obey Him. As a Jesus story that helps us see His divinity, it is unmatched until Christ’s resurrection.
But there is something else operating here, something much deeper. The original sense of the story is something that happened once or maybe twice in the life of Christ with His disciples. But there is so much more that aided the infant Church in the years after Pentecost. And beyond that, there is more that can aid this two thousand year old Church in the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, and more particularly, our Extraordinary Form community.
That is because whenever the evangelists, especially Matthew, talk about a boat, they are speaking of the Church herself. Jesus entered the boat; Jesus is the master of the Church. The disciples–that’s you and I–we follow Him into the boat. Jesus, master of the boat, goes into the cabin and falls asleep while the expert fishermen take the helm and trim the sails. The calm sailing doesn’t last very long. Even today taking a boat out on the Sea of Galilee involves a risk. The mountains are so arranged around that inland lake that they funnel the winds from the Mediterranean down right onto the lake, so that they disturb both the lake waters and the air around it. And what a disturbance this was. The Greek text calls it a seismos, the same word used for a massive earthquake. Wind and waves were against them. The boat was shipping huge amounts of water; washing over the gunwales and filling the hold. Drowning was a real possibility. The disciples, who knew well the perils of this particular lake, woke their Master up and said, “we are being destroyed, rescue us.” And the Master responded promptly with divine power, so that all were saved.
We need to take this powerful five Gospel verses to heart, especially today. Pounded by external forces and weakened by a few corrupt leaders, the Church, the bark of Peter, is sailing perilous waters. It’s like millions of Catholics are crying the prayer we just heard in the Gospel verse and will hear twice again at the Offertory: “out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord.” Ours is the collect as well: God knows us to be set in the midst of dangers so great that, by reason of our frail nature, we can’t always withstand them. We are tempted to believe that God has abandoned His people, that because of our sins He has turned His back on us.
Yet we know that cannot be true. Though the gates of hell stand against us, they cannot prevail. Our Lord promised it. Look back through the centuries at the number of times God’s promise has been fulfilled. Persecution after persecution by the Romans, peaking with the murderous Diocletian, and thirteen years after his death, Christianity had become the preferred religion of the empire. Not long afterwards, the Arians, who denied Christ’s divine nature, took the ascendancy over the Catholics, but where are they now? Many times the forces of Islam hammered against the Catholic west, and were always defeated by the power of God. The Protestant revolution tore most of northern Europe away from Christ’s Church, but all that did was cause the Holy Ghost to scatter Franciscan and Augustinian and Jesuit missionaries over the whole world, planting the faith on every continent. Enlightenment, French revolutionaries, fascists, Nazis, communists have all declared victory over the Catholic Church. The Church prayed in the midst of the hurricanes, and the Lord rose, spoke a word, and calmed the wind and waves. If we pray that His will be done in this day as well, He will win Himself a great victory, and preserve and grow His Church in spite of the assault of secularists.
I believe that the Father who always fulfills His promises will act in behalf of His people once again. All we need to do is ask. Our Lord seems to be at His best in a storm. So let me suggest that the response to this crisis, as to every crisis, must be the same one we always rely on–prayer. Daily ask God for help. Constantly pray “Jesus, I trust in Thee.” Ask Him to stir up in the heart of a faithful priest a desire to serve the hundreds of people who will come through our doors in the next few years with a liturgy full of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Ask Him to give our pastor the words he needs and the heart of charity he desires to build up the people of God. And when you have finished your prayer, give thanks for all Our Lord has done in the past, and all He plans for our future.