Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Success
Fr. Morel’s Sermon on January 31, 2004
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany
The Scripture for today’s Mass falls good for us. It is in harmony with the prophecies of Our Lady of Good Success-"The Star of the Stormy Sea"-"the Port of the shipwrecked" in times of storms and troubles, in times of strong winds and rough seas.
Our Lord is sleeping in the boat which is the Church, sleeping in the soul of each faithful. This gospel portrays Our Lord’s Divinity, His capacity to control Nature and His liberty vis a vis human will.
The gospel tells us that by the evening, he was tired and so ordered his disciples to set out in the boat for the other side of the lake to seek a little peace and quiet.
The Lake of Tiberias, of Genesar, or Genesareth, also called the Sea of Galilee, is situated at the North-East of Palestine, forming the eastern border of the province of Galilee. It is some fourteen miles long by seven miles wide, with a depth of between thirty-six and fifty four feet. Ira geographical position is interesting, since it is some six hundred feet below sea-level and surrounded by high hills. For this reason sudden storms are quite usual, caused by the high winds sweeping down from Mt. Hermon to the north of the lake.
Our Lord is tired; his sermon must have been a long one. Therefore, in search of rest, He told his disciples to sail over to the other side of the lake, some seven miles journey. He took advantage of the calm to sleep in then boat, his head on a cushion. However, His disciples were soon alarmed by their knowledge of the lake and the signs of an approaching storm, which soon fell upon them in all its force. At first they respected our Lord’s rest from care and did what they could to protect themselves, reefing in the sails and using oars. But soon it was clear that the danger was very great; the sea rose higher and higher and the waves were on the point of wrecking the little boat. Then they called the Master: Lord, save us, we are sinking! It was obvious that they had lost their confidence in him to some extent, because, if they had real faith in Him, they might have remembered the words of Jeremias (5. 22). However, in their danger it is easy to forgive them, as Christ did. He merely says to them: Why are you faint-hearted, men of little faith? Then he spoke to the wind and the sea: Peace, be still! And the wind dropped, and there was a great calm. Who is this, they said to one another, who is obeyed even by the winds and the sea?
We are told that Our Lord got on a boat and while they were crossing from one shore to another the storm came…
The boat is the Church and our soul.
The boat has always been a symbol of both the Church and the individual soul. The storm of persecutions is frequent in the history of the Church; that of temptations is equally frequent in the individual. Both lead to Christ. Christ permits the storm to prove our faith and increase our confidence; to increase our humility, purify us of vices and lead us to greater prayer and virtue.
Our Lord sleeps
It was a deep sleep, because not even the storm awoke Him. It was sign of a great man, full of activities, yet able to snatch moments for deep sleep which will restore his faculties for even greater efforts.
Christ sleeps when we are negligent and therefore the storms of temptation arise. He also appears to sleep sometimes when we are going through a periods of great trial, so as to awaken in us sentiments of confidence and trust in Him. Christ does not withdraw himself from us; it is us who withdraw ourselves from Him. Just as the sun warms all, but mostly those who place themselves within reach of its rays.
"Lord save us"
They thought it necessary to wake Him up in order to be safe. Was it not enough that He was in the boat with them? At His word the creatures He has made obey Him….but man? The astonishment of the disciples can be clearly understood if we remember that they were simple fishermen who knew this lake intimately and realize what a wonderful thing Our Lord had done in bringing about this sudden calm in the midst of the storm. From their point of view it was a greater miracle that that of Naim.
Firstly: If you notice, Our Lord slept.
It’s very rare in the Gospel that Our Lord sleeps. Origen says, "His Humanity slept and His Divinity was awake." It was while His body was resting on the ocean, He created the storm by His Divinity. He got the nature of the wind and sea to be obedient to His Divinity, while His humanity slept.
Why should He do this? He did this to try the faith of the Apostles. They had not been made aware of the testing of their faith in His Divinity. And Our Lord wanted to create an occasion to get them to believe in Him as God and not only as the miracle-maker that he has been doing previously (prior to getting on the boat across the lake). The Disciples came up to him and said, "Lord, we perish! Get up!" Why should you fear Death when you are in the company of Life? Why should you fear Nature when you are in the company of the Creator of Nature? Why should you fear when "Confidence Incarnate" sleeps in the same boat that you are traveling on? Men of doubt!
The Gospel reflects for us the prophecy given to Mother Mariana. The storms of persecution, the storms of temptation, the storms of idolatry, immorality rise up and threaten to capsize the boat, because the boat symbolizes the Church crossing the times and ages of existence from one shore to another. The boat has always been a symbol of both the Church and the individual soul. And while the boat of the Church is crossing, it is attacked by all sorts of storms. And what do we do? We do like the Apostles did. We get to the Lord to wake him up because we think that the boat will sink because we lack confidence. "Lord save us!" Whenever the Church faces troubles it is not the fault of Our Lord. It is our fault, the baptized members of His Church because God does not withdraw Himself from us. Rather, we kick Him out of us by sinning. Whenever we kick the Lord out of us, we cannot expect anything but storms since Nature will revolt. Nature will not accept that the Majesty of God is offended.
In our stormy times, today, Someone (still) sleeps on the deck of the Church. It is as if Our Lady tells us, "My Son is offended by the sins of this time. However, my Son is here. If only men and women would come back to me, the storms you are facing now would be calmed."
The Message of Our Lady, the comforter of the afflicted, is that through her intervention we can get the Son to calm the sea—the sea of immorality and godlessness which was prophesied for this time in which we live.
Secondly, the storm of our soul-the interior storm.
God never abandons His people. It is the people that choose to abandon God. What causes this? Neglect, tepidity in prayer, negligence in our spiritual duty, the sins we commit with joy. We don’t consider the special providence God has given us. In the prophecy given to Mother Mariana, it was said to her: You have to bear suffering. You have to face the storms; you have to endure violent winds, desolation. You have to become a victim soul making penance… Reparation…. Atonement… You must suffer. Carry your cross. This is unavoidable, if you want to conform to God’s Will. It is through humility in trials and storms of the soul that you will vanquish the storms outside of you. The prophecy given to us for our times, the storm which goes on in our souls can only be calmed by the One who sleeps in our souls and the One who accompanies us while we cross the shores of existence from one end to another like Our Lord and the Apostles crossing the Lake of Galilee from one shore to the other.
The end of the Gospel now is this:
Who is He that can calm the sea and waves…and they obey? They obey. St Augustine, commenting on this Gospel said "Nature obeys God. We, human beings, do not. He commanded the sea and the sea dare not disobey. He speaks to the winds and the storms, behold they are still. He commands every creature and not one moves beyond what He commands. Only the human race, alone, which has been honored by being created in His image and likeness to whom has been given the power of speech and the brain to understand, the man, the race of men, are the only ones to resist God. They, alone, do not obey Him. They, alone, despise Him. And for this cause, they, alone, will be condemned at the Judgment and punished by His Justice. In this way, they will be lower than the brute beasts of all of the creatures because all other creatures obey God but man, given a free will, disobey God.
Who is He that even Nature will obey Him? Our Lady at Fatima gave a sign. The sun obeyed her and it danced. Our Lady has a power over the elements because she has been associated to the power of Her Son. If the Son has such power, let us humbly beg Our Mother and listen to her by making penance and atonement. Only in obedience to her can we be sure of success in the soul and in this time of our trials.