Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany—30 January A.D. 2011

“What manner of man is this, that the winds and the sea obey Him?”{1}

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

    One of the essential elements of Catholicism is the idea that men and women are capable of knowing that there is a God through their natural reason. That is to say that even without God revealing Himself to us, we are able to know of His existence. Having this knowledge allows us to find motives of credibility in order to accept what He reveals to us through Faith. We can have human certainty as a sort of “preamble” to the Faith. The first Vatican Council spoke of this need for natural human reason in its dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation.

    If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason : let him be anathema.{2}

    Through human reason we know God not in His essence, but by the effects He has on the universe around us. This is what we call “inductive” reasoning, and it is the way most of the natural sciences are conducted. We make observations of the world around us, and from the general knowledge we gain, we reason to the the specific cause of what we observe. For example, after observing falling objects and the trajectories of projectiles on earth, and the orbits of planetary bodies in space, mankind has inductively reasoned to a theory of gravity.

    Philosophically speaking there are five ways by which we know the existence of God inductively, by studying His effects on the world around us:

   i.   All motion requires a mover, and ultimately a First Mover called God.

    ii.  Every event is determined by a cause, and ultimately a First Cause called God.

    iii.  Nothing in our experience exists of its own necessity, but depends on something else for existence.  Ultimately, this dependence goes back to a necessary existent being that we call God.

    iv.  We experience different degrees of natural perfection.  This good and better imply a Best, which we call God.

    v.  Everywhere in nature we see order and system.  In our experience order and system do not occur through random chance, but require an Orderer or Systematizer, which we call God.{3}

    Modernists and atheists both contend that God is not knowable through reason. One can question whether this is from genuine intellectual conviction, or simply from lust which wants no God to ordain good and bad, make Commandments, or bode punishment. Of course, with what we have seen in the past forty years it seems that the Modernists simply want to abolish any threat to their lusts, and don't feel any need to be intellectually coherent.

    The Modernist does not acknowledge objective truth, so objective knowledge of anything becomes impossible and is replaced with mere consensus of opinion. That is that everyone gets to express their opinion and then a “truth” is created by merging those opinions. Truth is created by “dialogue.” This is obviously fallacious, as it leads to a truth that keeps changing as new people enter the “conversation” or “dialogue,” and as the old people develop new ideas. For the Modernist, not only is God unknowable, but everything else is likewise unknowable. To the Modernist, religion and belief in God is a mere “sentiment” that some may possess and others may not—with the “sentiment” being different from one person to the next, and quite possibly changing with the passage of time and the experience of new things. Modernism has the false appeal of seeming to be “tolerant,” as everyone's opinion is as valid as anyone else's—but it dooms the opinion holders to perpetual uncertainty and conjecture.

    Paradoxically, the atheist may be a lot more realistic than the Modernist, and may believe that there is objective truth in the universe, but he will point out that inductive reasoning can be wrong if we fail in our observations, or fail to observe all relevant things. He holds that Christians have drawn the wrong conclusions from their observations, and have therefore reasoned incorrectly to the existence of God. For example, the atheist will deny our observation that things require causes and that there must ultimately be an Uncaused Cause, and a Prime Mover, and an Orderer of all things. The atheist will often argue that the universe is eternal, and that life somehow evolved from inanimate matter.

    The atheist is clearly wrong about evolution because complex things never come into existence by themselves. No one on finding a wristwatch, ticking and keeping correct time, will suppose that the watch just assembled itself, or that the component parts of the watch came accidentally into being, or that the materials for those component parts just happened to by lying around in the right place at the right time.

    The evolutionist will point to the similarity of human and animal embryos, or the universal use of DNA in the animal kingdom, but similarity and universality point to nothing more than a common origin. If anything, they point to a creator who made variations on a common theme.

    The evolutionist will claim that we can trace backwards through the fossil records—the petrified remains of long dead beings—and map a path that goes from man back to the most primitive single celled animals. Yet, in actuality, no such complete fossil record exists, and if it did, again it would do no more than point to an Intelligent Designer, who built on His simplest work to produce His more refined creatures. And it is significant to note that a great deal of fraud has taken place over the years, on the part of evolutionists falsifying fossils to claim they had found the “missing link.” The “Nebraska man” and the “Piltdown man” are examples of proven fraud—and the “Peking man” might as well be another fraud, for all of its purported fossils have gone missing! Apart from the alleged science of “global warming” perhaps no science has been more fraudulent than the alleged science of evolution.

    As an aside, I should note that the Modernist Jesuit “theologian,” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a paleontologist, and participated in the discovery of the fraudulent “Peking man” and “Piltdown man.”{4}

    In spite of its seeming impossibility, the evolutionist will hold out that given enough time, virtually anything can occur through random chance. The favorite example is a group of monkeys at typewriters pounding away at random—the claim is that eventually they will type out all the works of William Shakespeare. Ignoring the fact that the monkeys would have no way of recognizing what they had done, one still has to question how much time it would take—and even more, how much more time it would take to create the enormous complexity of all the living things on earth, past and present, through random actions.

    The atheist, recognizing the fact that no finite answer is adequate—not millions, not billions, or even trillions of years—may resort to the claim that the universe is eternal—that it always existed on its own, without creation—and that an infinite amount of time was available for things to evolve through random chance to the state in which we find them today. But that is unscientific as well. A universe infinitely old would have run all of its natural processes to completion. All hydrogen and the light elements would have undergone fusion to become heavier; all uranium and the heavy elements would have undergone fission to become lighter; perhaps leaving us with a universe made of some element in the middle, like element number 46, palladium, or, perhaps something more mundane like iron or zinc. All the planets would have collapsed into the Sun. The Sun and every star would have burnt out long ago. The galaxies, receding from us with their red-shift, would have vanished before mankind ever looked into the night sky. Modern science demonstrates that the world and the universe had to have a beginning—which we call the Un-caused Cause, the Prime Mover, and the Orderer of all things—which we call God.

    So Saint Thomas Aquinas, the scholastic philosophers, and the Fathers of Vatican Council I are on firm ground in saying that God “can be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason.”

    But in today's Gospel we see further proof of God's mastery over creation. It is from Saint Matthew's eighth chapter, part of which we read last week. Most of it deals with God's dominion over creatures: He healed a leper and the centurion’s servant at a distance; He healed Peter's wife's mother of a fever; on the other side of the lake He cast out devils who possessed two men. Non-believers will often try to pass these cures of as “psychosomatic,” as though the illnesses and the cures were in the minds of the sick—diabolic possession, they will say, is nothing more than schizophrenia, curable through Freudian psychoanalysis. Such explanations are not completely unreasonable—but how exactly, we must ask them, do you hypnotize the wind, and how do you psychoanalyze the sea? Human beings may be open to suggestion, but it would take something like the Prime Mover to calm the wind and the sea. What we have learned through natural reason has prepared us to understand the miracles of Jesus Christ, and to recognize Him as the Son of God.

    It also has prepared us to to learn something about Divine Providence. God created all things from nothing and keeps them in existence. But He appears not to “micro-manage.” He did not keep the people in Matthew's Gospel from ever getting sick or in distress. They actually had things like leprosy, paralysis, fever, and diabolical possession; they actually got caught in storms on the Sea of Galilee. Sometimes we have to ask for His help. Sometimes we have to tug on the hem of the skirt of His Blessed Mother.

    We must always be prepared to accept God's will in any thing for which we pray. Last week we heard the leper in the Gospel say to our Lord, “ Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” The Centurion simply stated his servant's plight, but placed no demand on our Lord, having this marvelous faith, the like of which He had not seen in all Israel.{5}

    Finally, there is an old joke about a fellow who hadn't prayed for years, until his car stalled in the middle of a vast desert, at which point he prayed most fervently—but, nonetheless his car wouldn't start and he soon met Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. When he told Saint Peter his story, the Saint had to chuckle: “We couldn't find you! It had been so long since we had heard from you that we didn't know where you were! The Father started a couple of clunkers on route 190, and two or three on route 95 down towards Las Vegas, but you weren't in any of them. If only you had been in touch more often.” Obviously, this is but a joke, for the omniscient God can find anybody anywhere, but if we want His favor it certainly makes sense to be in frequent communication with Him—in prayer, at Mass, and in the Sacraments.

    “What manner of man is this, that the winds and the sea obey Him?”
This Man is God, the Son of God, who hears the prayers of those who call upon Him!


1  Gospel: Matthew viii: 23-27

2  Vatican Council I, SESSION 3: 24 April 1870 - Dogmatic constitution on the catholic faith Canon 2.1

3  From Ronald A. Knox, The Belief of Catholics, chapter 4. This is a standard scholastic proof, after Saint Thomas.

5  Gospel: ibid. 1-13.





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