By the Rev Msgr Harry Entwistle
Sunday 13 August, 2017
St Paul’s Catholic Church Mt Lawley
Ordinariate Parish of St Ninian & St Chad
It seems that in sporting and other aspects of life, the only acceptable outcome is victory. Only in victory is approval given. Some people spend their time seeking approval of their parents, and in their spiritual lives they constantly seek approval from God. What is not understood is that in God’s eyes it is not victory or success that he judges us on, but our faithfulness.
Faith is more of a verb than a noun. It is the way we live rather than an amount we possess. Faith is demonstrated through trusting God, especially when times are tough and God is silent.
Elijah had to learn this. He had done everything that God asked him to, but still Jezebel wanted him dead. Elijah is a classic case of burn out. All he wanted to do was curl up and die. God didn’t seem to care, and if only God would acknowledge Elijah’s work, he could die in peace. God did reveal himself, but not in a powerful manifestation of wind, earthquake and fire, but in the power of silence.
In his book with that title, Cardinal Sarah says that God drapes himself in silence and reveals himself in the interior silence of the heart. It is those who possess the spirit of prayer who love silence. p 237. In the presence of God’s still small voice, Elijah was refreshed and renewed, not to retire from being a prophet, but to continue in God’s service.
St Peter also learned the lesson that no matter how it looks, God does not abandon us. After teaching the crowds and feeding the 5000, Jesus wanted time in prayer so he sent his disciples across the lake in a boat. A storm blew up and the boat was in danger of sinking. In the darkest hour of the night at the height of the storm Jesus came to them just as God had come to Elijah at his lowest point.
Although barely visible, Jesus reassured them, and Peter was invited to join Jesus. He almost reached him but seemed to panic and so sink. At that low point Jesus rescued him and when both were safely in the boat, the storm ceased. Jews believed that only God could control the sea so Jesus was demonstrating his true identity.
However, Christians have also focussed on the boat. It was the boat that was in danger, and the first Christians understood the Church as a boat. When St Matthew’s gospel was written (80-100 AD) the Church was facing vicious persecution, Christians were abandoning the Church doubting the divinity of Jesus. This story is one of encouragement. Notice it was Jesus’ presence in the boat that caused the storm to cease, and when it did, those in the boat worshipped him saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Jump from then to now. The Church in the West is storm tossed, suffering the onslaught of atheism, relativism and individualism. Life is all about ‘rights’ not responsibilities, and even among some Christians, the faith is about being approved of by the world rather than working for the world’s salvation.
Is it the abandonment of God by our secular society that is causing the storm or is it the lack of faith in Jesus and the Church’s teaching that has allowed the storm to blow up?
Christians must have Jesus in the boat. Without Jesus in his teaching, in his sacrifice, in his sacraments and in our hearts, we disciples will continue to be battered and bashed. In the eye of our current storm we must never take our eyes off him, and in our hearts say, “Truly, you are the Son of God.'” Only then will we know the stillness of the deep that is greater than the storm.