4th Sunday after Pentecost
In today’s epistle, St Paul tells us that “the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us” (Rm 8:18). This brief sentence shows us the excellence of the glory to which we are called. It is a glory to come that is to say, that it is future, it is the future life, life after death, unending life after a brief temporal existence. It is a glory of a most splendid dignity, next to which the highest honours of this life are like plastic pearls that fade in the light. It is a glory that will be revealed, that is to say that at the moment God’s friends are hidden from the eyes of the world which is all too involved with itself to even see them, but on the last day, all the facades will fall, the masks will be thrown off, and the shining glory of the children of God will be eternally manifest. Finally, it is a glory that will be in us. In this we see the vanity of the glory the world offers its servants, for that pomp and glory is exterior, it is outside the person in the trappings of wealth and the opinion of fallible and mortal men. But eternal glory will be based on something that is within man, for as Our Lord says: “The Kingdom of God is within you” (Lk 17:21).
In the passage that immediately precedes these words, the Apostle had told us that we must first suffer with Christ if we wish to be glorified with Him. How reassuring and consoling it is to think that that there really is no comparison between what we might suffer in this fleeting existence and the glory of paradise to come. Literally no comparison. One is temporal, the other eternal. One lasts a day, the other forever. The saints tell us that, just as one second of hellfire will make the soul completely forget whatever false pleasures it had in this life, so one second of heavenly glory will make the soul totally oblivious of what it might have suffered in this life. Let’s make sure we don’t get things wrong and put our heart in the wrong place. Just as it is the common wisdom of the saints to fix their eyes on eternal good and to bear with hardship in this life, so is it the common lot of the reprobate to put all their hope in passing pleasures. The wisdom of the saints shines out all the more when contrasted with the madness of sinners.
Perhaps this is why today’s Gospel tells us of the Our Lord commanding Peter to put out into deep waters. This life indeed is like an excursion at sea. The time we spend here below is very much like the crossing of a sea. What would we think of a man who, on a ship cruise around the world, would set himself up a house and invest in buying and selling and creating his own little business and putting all of his energy into making his few days on board as pleasant as possible with no concern for what he will do when he gets to port? That is exactly what sinners do when they refuse to look up to the eternal shore of Heaven and try to make themselves comfortable in this life, which St Teresa of Avila said is nothing more that “a bad night in a lousy hostel”.
But Our Lord’s command to put out into the deep leads us to another aspect of this Sunday’s Mass. What is it to put out into the deep if it is not to entrust oneself entirely to Divine Grace, to take the plunge and trust in God’s omnipotent goodness to lead us to a blessed eternity, to refuse to lock ourselves up in our petty concerns and to hand ourselves over to the Divine Providence which guides our little boat through the waves of this ephemeral existence? What is putting out into the deep if it is not to refuse to fret or be upset or lose hope or worry about the things of this world? What is it if it is not to refuse to tell Our Lord what He needs to do and to accept that He is in control? What is it if it is not, when we see the power of evil grow, to take refuge in prayer, with the absolute conviction that God will deal with it in His time? What is it if it is not to accept our path in life, to let ourselves find rest in the contemplation of His goodness, just as the babe finds repose and tranquility in the arms of its mother? What is it if it is not to sleep soundly as the waves pound against our little bark, surrendering to the omnipotent grace that is ever in control of even the minute details of our life? What is it if it is not to remain at peace when others point out our shortcomings or find fault with what we do or speak ill of us, instead of backbiting and creating wars that only serve to pollute further God’s good earth? What is it if it is not to close our eyes and allow ourselves to be carried away with the flowing current of divine grace, knowing that if we do so our little boat will wind its way to the eternal shore.
As we continue our journey towards eternity, let’s make sure we have Jesus in our boat. Let’s not lose Him for anything in the world. Let us not chase Him away by sin. For as the Imitation of Christ says, he who loses Jesus, loses more than if he had lost the whole world.
If we have Jesus in our boat, we mustn’t be surprised if He asks us for some favours, if He invites us to renounce ourselves, if He counts upon our utter abandonment and reliance on His grace, if He asks us to take the plunge into the unknown. Then it is that we must be ready to put out into the deep, to launch ourselves on the high sea, entrusting ourselves to a piece of wood, that very same wood to which the Saviour was nailed.
And if, in spite of our generosity, or perhaps because of it, the Lord seems to sleep, let us not wake Him. The apostles were reprimanded for their little faith when they woke Our Lord, for the greater faith is to wait for Him, to trust that He, even though He may seem to sleep, is really wide awake and perfectly in control, for His Sacred Heart never sleeps.
The day might come when, like Peter, we want to beseech Him to depart from us, for we have come to know our profound indignity. But then it is that we must stay, for then it is, and only then, that He can entrust to us the task of launching other souls out on the high sea of authentic conversion and sanctity of life. Then it is that we can be part of that crowd of souls who contribute to the “tranquil devotion” of which today’s collect speaks, and which makes the Church in every age a refuge and a haven for those who are founded on the solidity of the true faith. The world is in constant agitation, and that turmoil causes the Bark of Peter to be tossed about on the waves, but deep down in that ship are safe and sound the souls, the little, humble souls, who accept to rest with Jesus and who look up incessantly to Mary, Star of the Sea, who is guiding the true Church to the everlasting shores. Amen.