4th Sunday after Epiphany
Today’s Gospel tells us of the storm at sea during which the Lord is asleep. It is to be hoped that you would have noted the incongruity involved in sleeping through a storm at sea in a small boat. Our Lord was no doubt tired, very tired indeed, but that alone does not explain why He sleeps through the torment.
The bark is the Church, it is also the Christian soul. Jesus dwells there. It is His abode. There are times when He appears to sleep and not care about what is happening to us. Those are times when we must be renewed in our absolute confidence in Him.
You may recall the meditations on the Way of the Cross led by Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005, just over a week before the death of John Paul II, and during which he spoke of the Church as being on the point of capsizing. But the Church carries Jesus and therefore she cannot capsize. Or rather, yes, she will capsize, she will be thrown into the deep like the prophet Jonah, because she will be overcome, apparently, by the violence of persecution against her. She must go through her trial, which will include apparent suppression. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be banned around the world, the enemies of Christ will rejoice. All that is good will be swallowed up in the waves. But Jesus is there.
In the midst of it all, we are like the apostles. We come and wake Our Lord, pointing out the obvious: Lord, we are perishing. We want to remind Him, with today’s collect and secret prayers, of our frailty, that without Him we are lost. He must rise and help us. Indeed, it would seem that the Lord does want us to urge Him to intervene and save our frailty from so many dangers. It is therefore good to do so.
But the Lord’s reproach to His disciples seems to be giving us another path, that of peacefully trusting that, whatever happens to us, He is in control and will not fail us. St Therese of Lisieux understood this well. In her poem Vivre d’amour (Living on love), she writes: “To live on love when Jesus sleeps/ is to rest on the roaring waves. Fear not, O Lord, that I will wake you,/ I await in peace for the heavenly shores”. This is a much deeper approach to the trials of our lives. It is proper to those who come to have for Jesus a deeper love and absolute confidence. They know that His concern for them is greater than any they could have for themselves, and so even when they feel like they are about to be submerged in the waters, they do not wake the Lord, but rest peacefully with Him. If the boat capsizes, we go down with Jesus. Simple as that. And if we go down with Jesus into the deep, we know that with Him we will reach the eternal shores of the Resurrection. This is true for our personal trials, and God knows we all have them. It goes also for the trials of the Church. These will increase before they get better.
On Thursday this week, the Church celebrates the Purification of Our Lady and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. It is also the feast of Our Lady of Good Success of the Purification who appeared to Venerable Mother Marianna de Jesus Torres in the early 17th century. Our Lady favoured this holy nun with numerous instructions and visions, all the more significant for us in that among them she foresaw the trials the Church would undergo in the 20th century and thereafter. Among other things, she was told the following:
“The Christian spirit will rapidly decay, extinguishing the precious light of Faith until it reaches the point that there will be an almost total and general corruption of customs. The effects of secular education will increase, which will be one reason for the lack of priestly and religious vocations… The Sacred Sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed and despised. … The demon will try to persecute the Ministers of the Lord in every possible way and he will labour with cruel and subtle astuteness to deviate them from the spirit of their vocation, corrupting many of them. These corrupted priests, who will scandalize the Christian people, will incite the hatred of the bad Christians and the enemies of the Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church to fall upon all priests. This apparent triumph of Satan will bring enormous sufferings to the good Pastors of the Church… How the Church will suffer during this dark night! Lacking a Prelate and Father to guide them with paternal love, gentleness, strength, wisdom and prudence, many priests will lose their spirit, placing their souls in great danger. This will mark the arrival of My hour….
“Moreover, in these unhappy times, there will be unbridled lust which will conquer innumerable frivolous souls who will be lost. Innocence will almost no longer be found in children, nor modesty in women. In this supreme moment of need of the Church, those who should speak will fall silent…. A simple humble faith… will be reserved for humble and fervent souls docile to the inspirations of grace, for Our Heavenly Father communicates His secrets to the simple of heart, and not to those whose hearts are inflated with pride, pretending to know what they do not, or self-satisfied with empty knowledge….
“Therefore, cry out insistently without tiring and weep with bitter tears in the privacy of your heart, imploring our Celestial Father that, for love of the Eucharistic Heart of my Most Holy Son and His Precious Blood shed with such generosity and the profound bitterness and sufferings of His cruel Passion and Death, He might take pity on His ministers and bring to an end those Ominous times, sending to this Church the Prelate who will restore the spirit of its priests….
“Woe to the world should it lack monasteries and convents! Men do not comprehend their importance, for, if they understood, they would do all in their power to multiply them, because in them can be found the remedy for all physical and moral evils… No one on the face of the earth is aware whence comes the salvation of souls, the conversion of great sinners, the end of great scourges, the fertility of the land, the end of pestilence and wars, and the harmony between nations. All this is due to the prayers that rise up from monasteries and convents.”
My dear Friends, it is consoling to know that what we are living through at the moment was all foretold centuries ago: the corruption of morals, the loss of faith, the betrayal and/or cowardly silence of the Church’s pastors, but also the power of prayer and in particular of prayer that rises up from monasteries. Of particular significance is that at the darkest hour of all, then will the Lord intervene. At Fatima, Our Lady something very similar: it is when the whole world is immersed in the errors of Russia (that is to say, atheistic communism) the She will step in.
So, as the night gets darker, as the tempest rages around us, as there is talk of further restriction of the Traditional Mass, we have the word of Our Lady that evil will not triumph forever. Yes, one day the Church will be restored. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in all its purity will be available everywhere. A truly great Pope and holy Bishops and priests will lead souls to the eternal shores.
In the meantime, let’s imitate St Therese and with her, let’s try not to wake Jesus. He knows. He is watching. The waters will only go so far. His day is not far off. And if any of us must make the ultimate sacrifice before that day comes, we know that the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.