Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany—29 January AD 2007

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English


“Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”[2]

    We are told that the virtue of faith is the virtue that enables us to believe what God has revealed, even though we may have no way of verifying it for ourselves—we believe what God has revealed because, just as He is never deceived, He never deceives us.  The first Vatican Council tells us “that there is a twofold order of knowledge ... in one [order] we know by natural reason, in the other by Divine faith ... [the] mysteries hidden in God, but which we have to believe and which can only be known to us by Divine revelation.”[3]

    To illustrate:  If we were to walk into a friend’s living room and find a few people there, we would be able to count them, and then say with certainty: “there are six people in this room” or “eight” or “however many.”  Counting is something which we do with our unaided natural reason, and something we are able to do with a great degree of confidence in the knowledge we gain.

    On the other hand, if someone were to ask us to count the number of Persons in God, we would be at a complete loss.  To begin with, we might not even be aware that there are Persons in God—there is but one God, so, with no more information than this, we would probably be inclined to guess that there is only one Person, and we would be wrong.  It is only because God has revealed it to us that we can say that there is the Father, there is the Son, and there is the Holy Ghost—only once this has been revealed can we count them, “one, two, three.”

    The difference, of course, is that the people in the room can be detected by our senses;  we can see them, or hear them, or touch them, and know that they are there, and then we can count them.  The Trinity and a number of other things, although quite real, are “hidden in God” and not subject to our detection.

    Not surprisingly, God places a great deal of importance on our acknowledging the truths which He has revealed, learning them, believing them, and publicly professing them.  In fact, the belief in what God has revealed is the beginning of the path to salvation—from the day of our Baptism even unto the very day in which we die, we must believe and profess the Faith that has come down to us from Our Lord through the Apostles, and in our own time, through the Catholic Church.

    In today’s Gospel, our Lord is critical of the Apostles for their lack of faith.  Although it is not immediately clear from reading the Gospels, we can assume that our Lord had revealed to them that they were part of His plan for salvation, and that He was not going to allow a little wind and water to frustrate that plan.  He had called them to discipleship while they fished on this same inland sea of Galilee (or Tiberius), saying that He was going to make them “fishers of men.”[4]  They went around with Him as He preached the word of God, healed the sick, and turned out the devils from those possessed—they had heard Him preach His Sermon on the Mount.[5]   As we heard last week, both a leper and a Roman Centurion came to Jesus with absolute faith in His ability to work miraculous cures.[6]  So our Lord was probably a little disappointed that His own Apostles in the boat lacked the same belief in Him as the Roman, who knew that Jesus didn’t even need to be where His miracles were worked.

    Perhaps this miracle was noted in the Gospels for our benefit.  Modern critics of the Catholic Faith often suggest that Jesus did not really cure anyone—that the illnesses, and particularly the devils, were just psychosomatic—they suggest that the only faith involved was Jesus restoring the faith of these people in themselves, thus making them able to cast off their merely imagined illnesses.  Such critics, of course, ignore the physical reality of diseases like leprosy and dropsy—and, a fortiori, the reality of death and resurrection.  But, certainly, no one was going to be able to calm the wind and the sea with any kind of psychology—this was clearly an exercise of divine power.

    The miracle is also noted for our benefit on a different level.  We live in one of those eras of history when there is great cause for concern about the future.  From the purely human point of view, we have been given a number of reasons to wonder whether or not our society, our culture, our civilization, and, yes, even the Church, will survive.  From the purely human point of view, we can look around us, and in all of these institutions, we see enemies without, and scandalous behavior within.

    Although it may not be certain what the Apostles had been told before the storm arose on the Sea, we do know what they were promised later on—promises which apply to us as well as to them:  There will never be a time when the saving graces of the Sacraments are nowhere to be found, though we may have to look hard for them—for “false christs and false prophets will arise ... to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”[7]  “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against It.”[8]  The Church did not always have the splendor, wealth, and power it had in the middle ages, perhaps It never will again, but the forces of hell will not overcome Her and those who follow Her authentic teaching.  “Teach ye all nations, baptizing them ... teach them to observe all things I have commanded, and behold I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world.”[9]

    Our Lord has been with us through tough times in the past, and will be with us through tough times until time itself comes to an end.  Indeed, difficult times are a sign that we are following our Lord and not the rulers of the world:  “If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”[10]

    The true Faith has often been persecuted.  In the New Testament and in our early histories we read about persecution, first by the Jews, and then by the Romans.  Some of the persecutors were converted—Saint Paul and the Emperor Constantine, for example—and the Temple and the Empire ceased to exist.

    Shortly thereafter we had the Arian heresy:  People denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, the papacy was in politically generated disarray,  only a few priests and bishops remained faithful to the truth—but God raised up the great Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria, who rallied the faithful to defeat the heresy in the Empire.

    Then came the Barbarian invasions.  Tribes from Germany and Scandinavia to the north, and from as far as Mongolia to the east, invaded Europe and North Africa—bringing murder, theft, political chaos and more heresy.  It was the Church that endured, and formed Western Civilization out of what was left.

    Then came the Moslems—continuously, for over a thousand years, starting around AD 700.  But, again, the Church and Western institutions were able to protect themselves, sometimes with help from above that can only be described as divine intervention—often through the protection of the Blessed Mother:  Constantinople in 911,  Grenada in 1492,  Lepanto in 1571,  Vienna in 1683,  Belgrade in 1867.

    Civil governments have come and gone, and will continue to do so.  Even in the Church, at the highest levels, we have had momentary failures.  The first Pope not to be called “Saint” was Liberius, who failed to stand strong against the Arians around AD 360.  There was Honorius I around 630, who was soft on the Monothelite heresy, which denied the human will of Christ.  There was the scandal of the women Theodora and her daughter Marozia, who put boys and men on and off the papal throne—mother or mistress to some of them in the early tenth century.  There was Alexander Borgia, Pope at the end of the fifteenth century, whose name will ever be associated immorality.

    But the Church has survived all of this—as It will continue to survive in the future, until the end of time.  Occasionally we joke that the fact that the Church has survived Its leadership is proof of Its divine origin—not exactly a joke.  We must know and profess our Faith, we must keep the Commandments, we must frequent the Sacraments, and persevere in prayer—but God will do the rest.

    “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”  The same God, whom even the wind and the sea obey will be with us “all days, even unto the consummation of the world.”  “The gates of hell shall not prevail.”



[2]   Gospel Matthew viii: 23-27

[3]   First Vatican Council, III, iv.

[4]   Matthew iv: 17-22.

[5]   Matthew iv-vii.

[6]   Matthew viii: 1-13.

[7]   Matthew xviv: 24.

[8]   Matthew xvi: 18.

[9]   Matthew xxviii: 19 ,20.

[10]   John xv: 19.



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