Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, January 29, 2017

Dominica 4 post Epiphaniam / Evening, 28 January 2017 / Church of St John

Then rising up he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm (Mt 8:26).

We read in the opening verses of Genesis:
In the beginning God created heaven, and earth. And the earth was void and empty and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved over the waters. . . . God also said: Let the waters that are under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear. And it was done.[1]

If there were a primordial peace and order upon the waters as God created them, then this was not to last, once sin had entered the world. Today’s Gospel proves it: “behold a great tempest arose in the sea.” As such, there are all manner of storm that we encounter today.

There are cultural storms. Just yesterday the March for Life occurred. It is fearful to observe how the most basic matters of human life can also be the most hotly contested. This being the case, it is probably not too much to say that the life issues are the cultural battle of our place and time. 

There are ecclesial storms, upheavals within the fold of the Church that are also the source of division and conflict. The confusion over Sacraments for the divorced and civilly remarried is one such example; matters affecting the sacred liturgy are equally urgent and embattled. These disturb the Catholic people, and are, in many ways, worse than the cultural storms that rage about us.  

Then there are personal storms, our sufferings and hardships; the testings we undergo, the moral purification we are about; there is the good we know must be done through arduous circumstances—what have you. The storm as it beset some of the Apostles on the sea in today’s Gospel is most certainly an analogy for our own lives; we were on the boat with them that evening.  

Imagine what that must have been. St Matthew does not have to give us much detail because it is easy for us to picture: the violent, swirling murk of the winds and clouds had blotted out the evening stars; the pitch of the boat made each stomach sick and each heart race; the vessel, no matter how well or poorly made, was taking on water; each swell perhaps seemed more threatening than the last; all this in the midst of a terrible wind that made the disciples blind and deaf. There is nothing like the helplessness of man in the grip of a storm at sea, and it was not hyperbole for the disciples—some of them likely experienced fishermen—to cry, Dómine, salva nos, perímus.[2]

Who knew such great storms could arise in so little a place as the human heart and mind?  

And then Christ rose.—He rose with all the triumph and strength of the Creator, for in his Divine Nature he was there when first these same waters were separated from the firmament.[3] He rose, no doubt, with all the gravity and meekness and manliness that exuded from his human nature—and we do not know here what words and gestures he used to rebuke the storm, but it obeyed: et facta est tranquilitas magna.[4]

Beloved friends, if that evening there arose great tempest—motus magnus in mari factus est—it was only so that a great peace could follow—et facta est tranquilitas magna. St Matthew does not say simply that things calmed a little, that is, just enough for the men to safely continue their journey. No, it was a great peace, perhaps a peace the likes of which none of those disciples would ever know again on this earth. But the point is for us, who were in that boat in Christ’s Heart, when they are pacified by Christ, great storms become great peace.

Stay faithful, dear friends, and never be afraid of present storms or any that may come. We hear somewhere else in the Scriptures: “Dearly beloved, we are now the sons of God; and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like to him: because we shall see him as he is.”[5]

[1] Gen 1:2, 9.
[2] “Lord, save us: we perish” (Mt 8:25)!
[3] Cf Gen 1:7.
[4] And there was a great calm (Mt 8:26).
[5] 1 Jn 3:2.

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