Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost-8 June AD 2008
“All creation groans and travails in pain until now.”

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

Saint Ambrose of Milan    Saint Ambrose, the fourth century Archbishop of Milan, who baptized Saint Augustine, draws our attention to the fact that the boat in today’s Gospel, Peter’s boat is the same boat that the Apostles found themselves in during a storm, while our Lord was asleep.[2] This storm on the Sea of Galilee took place after our Lord had healed a large number of people, and before He cast our a number of devils on the other side of the Lake-the boat and all aboard might have perished if Jesus had not calmed the wind and the waves.[3]  Quite likely, the boat is also the boat in which the Apostles alone were traveling to the town of Genesar, after the multiplication of loaves in the desert. You may recall that on that occasion Jesus came to them, walking over the water-and He even got Peter to take a few steps on the water, before Peter looked down and had second thoughts, and began to sink.[4]

    It is clear that our Lord exercised power over all creation-animate and inanimate, material and spiritual. Of these three events on Peter’s boat, today’s is the only one that is fruitful. On the other two occasions, they were able to make their voyage safely, but had nothing particular to show for it. In today’s account they caught so many fish that their net was in danger of breaking, and others had to be called upon to gather the great bounty of the sea. There is a similar event, after the Resurrection, recorded in Saint John’s Gospel, in which Peter and the Apostles caught one-hundred-fifty-three fish-another net stretching load-when directed by our Lord to cast out the nets.[5]

    We might ask, what is the difference between the two productive events, with their great catches of fish, and the two events that were little more than survival.

    The difference, in all cases, is faith. “Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?” our Lord asked those in the violently bobbing boat. “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” He asked the sputtering Peter as He pulled him into the boat. The Apostles lacked faith in that they should have known that any voyage set out upon by Jesus Christ would be successful-the boat could not be overwhelmed, any more than our Lord could perish without His explicit consent. At first Peter had faith: “Lord, if that is You, bid me to come to you over the water.” Through faith, Peter knew that he could do anything Jesus asked him to do. But then he felt the power of the wind, and began to think in merely human terms-perhaps it was better to be safe, than to wind up at the bottom of the water.

    But in today’s Gospel, we find faith in Peter and the Apostles. They have heard Him preach. They are impressed with His command of the truth. This is a Man who speaks with divine authority, the like of whom they have never before encountered. If He says “Put out into the deep and lower your nets,” they know that they would be foolish not to do so. Filled with faith, they know that Jesus would not send them on a false or disappointing errand. The similar event after the Resurrection, with the one-hundred-fifty-three fish, is a manifestation of faith. They had already encountered our Lord, resurrected from the dead-by comparison, getting a few fish to jump into a net was nothing! It seems that they did not recognize Him immediately, but when the miraculous catch occurred, there was no doubt in Peter’s mind-by faith he exclaimed, “It is the Lord!” and threw himself into the water in his hurry to swim toward Jesus.

    Saint Paul puts these events into an interesting perspective. The first few chapters of his Epistle to the Romans deal with the sin of Adam and Eve; how through sin death entered into the world; but through the death of Christ on the Cross; and through our belief in Him and our following of His way in the world; we may be freed from the consequences of sin. But here in the eighth chapter, of which we heard a bit this morning, he suggests that the effects of original sin were universal, extending to all of creation: “All creation groans and travails in pain until now.”

    Paul’s words are a bit vague. It is not clear whether he is writing about a change in creation which has already taken place by virtue of the Sacrifice of the Cross; or about a change that will take place on Judgment Day, with the “new heaven and new earth” of the Apocalypse.[6] Or perhaps he is writing about the here and now. Perhaps he is saying that faith in Jesus Christ, and walking in the way of Jesus Christ, imitating His morality and behavior, will have a beneficial effect on the natural world around us.

    The large catch of fish was an occasional miracle worked by our Lord for those who believed in Him, and we know that large miracles like that are relatively rare. (Great miracles have to be rare, otherwise the world would be too chaotic for us to live in, with the natural laws continually shifting.) But smaller miracles seem to be woven into the fabric of nature-the ability of sunlight and water and minerals to bring forth food; the ability of people and plants and animals to turn that food into their living flesh; the ability of living flesh to reproduce and bring forth its kind-all of these things are small but essential miracles that go on continuously.

    God knows our needs, as He “knows the needs of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.” But it is beneficial, if not absolutely necessary, that we call upon God and ask for our needs. We have this on the authority of Jesus Christ Himself: “Our Father Who art in Heaven ... give us this day our daily bread ... forgive us our trespasses ... lead us not into temptation ... deliver us from evil.”

    We also have this on the authority of the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ. Apart from the Lord’s Prayer, the Ordinary prayers of the Mass (those repeated day in and day out) seem to look forward to the kingdom of heaven, and ask very little for our material well being. But the Church also recognizes our earthly needs, and adds them to Her recurring prayers. I would urge all of you to take a look through your missals. Beyond prayers for the Church’s needs, there are Masses for peace, for relief from pestilence, for pilgrims and travelers, for the sick, for the bride and groom at the start of married life. There is a general purpose Mass for any necessity, and even one to be said in time of just war.

    There are prayers which can be added to other Masses: For those who govern the republic, for a congregation or family, for a community; to avert earthquakes, famine, plague, hurricanes, and drought; for our friends, or for our enemies; for those at sea, for those in jail; for the living as well as the dead.

    Several times a year we have the ember days and the rogation days, to praise God for His seasonal bounty, but also to ask for its increase, and for protection against misfortune and material ruin.

    Certainly, such prayers are more effective if we pray them with faith, and while living the moral life of Christ, walking in His ways. They are more effective if we actually pray them, not leaving them unread in the pages of the missal. They are most effective if we pray them in person at holy Mass, not expecting the priest to do for us what we are unwilling to do for ourselves, but rather praying these prayers with him.

    “All creation groans and travails in pain until now.” Now we have the Redemption of mankind. Now we have the perfect prayer of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It remains for us to have faith and morality, and to join the Church in praying for the tranquility of all creation. “Give us this day our daily bread ... deliver us from evil. Amen.


[1]  Epistle: Romans viii: 18-23.

[2]  Lesson at Matins, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.

[3]  Matthew viii.

[4]  Matthew xiv, Mark vi.

[5]  John xxi.

[6]  Apocalypse xxi:1 ff.


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