First, let me say Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, both natural and spiritual. Today we are reminded that our relationship with our father or those who have played the role of father in our life can in many ways be the foundation of our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is through the love of our parents that we should first experience love and begin to realize that it is in our nature to love. It is through the love of our father or of a father figure in our life that we can begin to contemplate a perfected and eternal fatherly love, which is exactly what God the Father offers us.
I hope everyone is aware that our Holy Father, Pope Francis, released a new encyclical last Thursday. An encyclical is a teaching document from the Pope to a specific audience that clarifies or extends Church teaching. The most recent encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home, extends the Church’s social teaching in the realm of environmental responsibility.
I am not going to preach about this new encyclical today because I have only read about half of it. It wouldn’t make any sense to comment on a document that I have not had time to fully read, reflect upon, and understand. To do that would be foolish.
That said, there seem to be an awful lot of people out there commenting on a document that they have not had time to fully read, reflect upon, or understand. I encourage everyone here to obtain a copy of the encyclical either online or in printed format and read it. Some might be surprised to find that the encyclical written by the Holy Father is not at all the encyclical predicted by some of the more panicky, hysteria-prone commentators.
I hope in the coming months to put together a series of sessions on what Catholic environmental stewardship is and how we should all be practicing it. This is something I have been planning for more than a year and actually had hoped to do it this summer, but once I heard that the pope was writing on the environment, I put my plan on the back burner to await the Holy Father’s teaching and to ensure that everything I might say was completely in line with the teaching of Holy Mother Church.
In today’s Gospel reading, we encounter Christ and His disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. It is night, and a violent storm rises. Christ is asleep in one boat; other boats are making the crossing with Him.
The disciples are afraid; they wake Christ and ask him “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Our Lord then rebukes the storm just like He might rebuke a demon, telling it: “Quiet! Be still!”
And the storm ends. Calm returns.
This is not merely a story of something that happened long ago and demonstrates God’s authority over the wind and rain. This Gospel account has meaning for us today. Recall that there were many disciples; those are different than the Twelve Apostles. Multiple boatloads of disciples were making this crossing with Christ. It would not be a stretch to say that this flotilla represents the entire Christian community.
Understood in that way, the storm represents uncertainty. Adversity. Things happen that we do not expect; we find ourselves in mortal danger, and where is God? Is He asleep? Has He abandoned us?
Of course not. He is with us. I would suggest to you that the disciples were never in any danger; they merely perceived themselves as in danger because they did not fully understand or appreciate the power of God. Christ did not so much save them from the storm as He saved them from their own fear.
We are never in any danger when Christ is with us. The question isn’t one of whether or not Christ has the power to save us – we all know that He does. The question is how much faith do we have in Christ to act on our behalf… to save us from adversity… to protect us from all dangers, be they physical or spiritual.
No one gets through life without having to face some fear… some danger… some adversity. In the words of St. Padre Pio: pray, hope, and don’t worry.
I wonder how this might have played out differently if instead of waking Jesus and shouting, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” if instead the disciples had simply gone to Christ and said, “Lord, we know you have the power to save us. Please act on our behalf.”
I’m not trying to pass judgement on the disciples and say what they should have done… merely wondering how things might have worked out differently. Certainly, Christ would not have asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Our faith should always be placed in Christ, who has the power to save us. We need not fear when we trust in the Lord; we need not be afraid. Storms will come; adversity will come. Those cannot be avoided. But they shall pass.
The question is not whether or not Christ will protect us from adversity, because adversity is a part of life. It comes to the Christian and the non-Christian. The difference is in how we face adversity. Do we face it with terror, or with the calm assurance that Christ will not abandon us?
Our faith can sustain us even in the most difficult times. Let us pray always for the grace to face the storms of life not with terror but with a calm certainty that Christ is with us and will sustain us, and even at the end of our life will never abandon us.