Pentecost - 24th Sunday After
Our Blessed Lord had been preaching to the multitude till His strength was well nigh spent. To Him, as to other men came after long toil, weariness of brain and heaviness of heat. For, remember, though He was God, He was man, as much as any man that ever lived, with a human body and a human soul, senses, intellect, feeling, such as we work with. And the body that He had taken, having been taken with an express view to the fate that was to befall it on Calvary, was a body capable of fatigue, and fitted for suffering, and liable consequently to feel at times the dead weight of weariness that falls on those who work, and makes the worker long for the quiet night, and the sleep that seems to steal away the spirit from its fleshly prison, and give some brief respite to the tired sense, and the over-tasked brain, and the muscle, taxed almost beyond what it could bear. This feeling came to Jesus in its own time. He had spoken much, and had seen much, and He was very weary. He had spoken he words that had it in them to brighten the lives of sorrowing men with the sure hope of life eternal. He had spoken them with an earnestness that taxed His energy; for, it was the earnestness of One Who saw as never man had seen, the miseries of the human race, and had the deepest longing and the amplest power to remedy them all. For, He loved the people He spoke to; He spoke to them from a heart so hot with love, that the words burned as they flew from heart to lip. And He had seen, not as speakers see who speak as, for instance, I speak now; mere faces that sometimes tell, but oftenest hide the souls that lie behind them. Not so, He; He saw not merely face and eye, but He could follow His own words down to the depths of the hearts that heard them. And, doubtless, He saw too, what was the case even when Jesus spoke, that there were hearts too cold to be warmed by any word He spoke; too hard to soften even under the influence of His presence and the magic of His smile, and the spell of His spoken words.
There were cold hearts the, and hard hearts, and heart that were indifferent to anything that sought to lead them ever so little higher, than that mean struggle to stave off the body’s hunger. There were such hearts then; there are such now.
Jesus saw these things, and the saddened Him. He felt the weariness of labor, and He felt that heavier weight that always presses on the earnest worker when his work has not fulfilled his wish. And He was worn out; He longed for the stillness of the sea, and the quiet of the far waters, where for a time the burden of His toil would fall from off Him, and where the sea would take Him weary to its bosom, and rock to the sleep that blesses men the God Who made it, and Who rules it, and Who holds whether in tempest or in calm, in the hush of summer noontide, or the crash of winter storm, holds it in its every mood, in the hollow of His hand.
And this day the sea was very still; the waves were quiet, nd the winds were hushed, and when Jesus and His disciples embarked in the frail vessel, that was the property of peter, it seemed as if it would be but a pleasant sail in the beautiful springtide of that Eastern clime. The disciples occupied themselves with their ordinary occupation of fishing, but where was Jesus? Ah! He had ceased to speak, and He had almost dropped out of their minds; He was asleep and perhaps these experienced toilers of the sea thought that it was just as well that He would rest, for that even if He were awake, He could give but little assistance in work to which His hand was unused. And Jesus slept on, till He was wanted; for a change came sudden, as weather changes come on those eastern seas. A frown of shadow passed across the lately smiling waters, the ripple rose into a wave, and the wave swelled into a billow. Black angry clouds shut out the blue of heaven overhead; the storm was upon them and they seemed to see on the crest of every wave a vision of sudden death.
Then, ah! Then, they remembered Jesus. He could be os use now, and they shouted in a voice that terror lifted above the storm, “Lord, save us, we are perishing.”
Well, it was an easy thing for Him to do; how could they have feared any threatening of wind and wavy, when for the time the fortune of their lives was linked with His. It was an easy thing for Him to do; He had but to speak, to say to the winds, be hushed, and to the waves, be still, and the billows shrank to waves, and the wave died back into a ripple, and the storm shadows brightened into smiles beneath the sunshine, and there again overhead, was the cloudless blue of heaven.
Such was the miracle. I have said, it was an easy thing for Jesus to do, and I have said it; first, because I know that He is God; but, secondly, because it is a miracle that He has often done since, a miracle, in fact, which He has never ceased and shall never cease to do, as long as He sails the world’s waters n the bark of Peter.
Long ago, once for all, and for ever, Jesus cast in His lot with Peter and Peter’s successors. Waking or sleeping He is always there; and though storms be sudden and waters deep, though the world’s thousand voices roar angrily around that bark, that to the eyes of men seems frail, but that has yet out-ridden every storm – yet, though this and more should happen, though these evils and worse than these should befall, what need Peter fear for his bark, or for himself, or for those who sail heavenwards along with him; what need he fear, when He knows that this bark of his, this Holy Catholic Church, that moves majestic through the centuries, carries in it, Jesus, Who said long ago, and His were lips that could not lie: “bhold I am with you, even to the consummation of the world!”
I look abroad upon the world of to-day, and I see that it is the hour of storm. The waves of human pride are swollen against the Church of God, clouds gather over the path on which the Pope, like Him Whom he represents on earth, seems to be walking with a heavy cross upon his shoulders to some Calvary to come. This Europe used to be called Christendom, the dominion of Christ. How does it deserve such a name now? It is sad to say it of one’s own time, but never since the martyr army of the Church broke the vast organization of Paganism, has there been a time when Christian ideas seem to have less influence on the public life of Europe. There is abroad upon the face of the world what has been the poisonous growth of many a year, a spirit of disorder, of disregard for right, of contempt for justice.
Christendom, forsooth! What a name for it! Why look at it; there were two nations that used to send many a saint to heaven; there they are now, quivering from recent conflict and the shock of battle. Two peoples with the rage of warfare scarcely dimmed in the fierce eyes with which they gaze upon each other; the one people flushed with the insolence of triumph, the other blazing with the suppressed passion of revenge. And Germany know no better way to thank heaven for success than by persecuting the Church of God. Well, she is not the first nation that has plotted itself against Christ, and lo! The nations pass, and the glories of them vanish, and Christ and His Church gave always been the survivors of the struggle, and the victors in the conflict
Father away, in Italy, a rebel son has stricken down a throne, more sacred than any other throne on earth. The Pope no longer dare walk though Rom; he waits for better times, he prays and hopes.
Nearer home, in that England, that, taking its stand on commerce, ought to be the last to relinquish the defense of common justice and common honesty, even there, there has grown up a Press that seeks and finds its most congenial task in undertaking the office of advocate for every vile deed, every notorious robbery, every perfidious breach of the law of nations and the law of God; for everything by which its unerring instinct tells it that the Catholic Church may be weakened in her influence or injured in any of her interests.
There is what men, by mere force of habit, continue to call Christendom.
These are some of the storms which have risen in our own day around the bark of Peter. They may grieve us, but they need awaken hot one thrill of fear for the interest that we prize. Catholics can lift their heads proudly, even when a tempest strikes bark that makes our enemies think that it must founder, and go down, and be seen in the world no more. We have no fear; for Jesus is with us, and though He seems to sleep, yet, we know with a certainty deeper than the certainty with which men look for the sunrise and the sunset, that at the crisis of the storm, Jesus will rise up, and hush the storm of human passion, and give peace and triumph to the Church.
We have no fear of the enemies outside the Church; they will do their worst, but only for a time. They will pass, as others like them have passed, from the memory of man to the justice of God. History will brand them with its august condemnation, and worst of all for them, when, in days to come, the world will be learning a lesson from their failure, Christ, against whom they fought, will have judged them. Let such as these pass, today, from the memory of the Church. Let us turn to ourselves, to ourselves who are by God’s great mercy seated in the bark of Peter. We have no fear of enemies outside, but what of enemies within. What if there be Catholics who seem to think that, because Jesus has not yet punished them for their sins, that He is in so deep a sleep as to take no notice of them. They add sin to sin. It is a long time now since they began. The first mortal sin! Ah! It was an awful moment, would Jesus strike at once: for, mark you, there are many souls in hell, who are there for one mortal sin and that the first. But this sinner, of whom I speak now, committed his first mortal sin and was not cut off. God had done a great deal for him; He had placed him safe in the bark of Peter, in the bosom of the Holy Catholic church. The return he made was, that some day, he met God face to face in His law, and he insulted Him by mortal sin. The angel guardian turned aside and wept, tears rushed Mary’s eyes of mercy, and all heaven turned to Jesus, to see if He would raise His hand and strike the sinner dead. But no; Jesus seemed to sleep; He slept the sleep of mercy, that He would fain have broken at the faintest whisper of the sinner, waiting till, perhaps, sometime the sinner would open his eyes to the peril in which his soul was placed, and gather up the contrition of his heart in one deep cry: “Lord, save me, I perish.” Jesus sleeps, but He will not sleep for ever; if He be not awakened by the vice of the sinner’s repentance, some day his compassion will be exhausted; the day of mercy will be gone; he will wake to judgment, and on the evening of that day, the sinner will be in hell.