YEAR OF FAITH – October 2012-November 2013 – October 21, 2012 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
YEAR OF FAITH – October 2012 – November 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
October 21, 2012
In the midst of His preaching, Jesus has the apostles get in the boat and row across the Lake of Galilee to the other side. He will meet them later, and Jesus retires up a mountain where he will be alone and can pray in solitude.
The boat, battered by waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning [Jesus] came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.
Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when [Peter] noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught [Peter], saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33)
With faith in Christ, Saint Peter overcame the limits of human nature, and he walked on water; when Peter doubted the Lord he sank into the waves. Crying out to Jesus, Peter received the Lord’s help and regained safe passage to the boat. Peter’s faith in Christ momentarily failed; faith restored Peter to safety.
In this year of Faith, Pope Benedict summons you and me to renew our Christian belief. Saint Paul defines faith in his Letter to the Hebrews (11:1): “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible (Hebrews 11:3). Creation by the word of God is like faith; in other words, something is produced from what cannot be seen. Thus faith grants the possibility of understanding things one can never know with evidential certitude. Faith also prompts the mother of Moses to hide him ion the bull-rushes despite Pharaoh’s edict; that is, faith gives courage to choose the good, or life itself, without fearing the consequences (11:23). And faith leads a person through persecution because of loyalty to the word of God (Hebrews 11:24-28, 35-39), even though receipt of God’s promises is not complete in mortal life (Augustine, Enchiridion, 6-8).
Our faith, in the first place, depends on the faithfulness of God. Thus Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a leader among the Jews, comes to Jesus by night, and he says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God”(John 3:1-2). You and I and Nicodemus realize that the miracles which Jesus performs are the work of God.
Faith in gospel miracles is awakened when Jesus with His disciples come to the village of Nain. They see a man who had died being carried out to burial. This man is the only son of a widow. “When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then [Jesus] came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, rise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother” (Luke 7:11-15). Miracles evidence God accomplishing wonders in our sight, and miracles resist rational analysis. Faith resists rational analysis.
Faith in the resurrection is the cornerstone of the New Testament. “If Christ,” writes St. Paul, “be not raised [from the dead], your faith is vain” (I Cor. 15:17), We believe God, and we realize that in Jesus Christ, God is among us, capable of changing water into wine, of walking on water, capable of raising the dead, and, finally, capable of Himself rising from the dead. Our faith rests on the faithfulness of God.
Faith does more than assent to truths. “Even the devils believe and tremble” (James 2:19). The devils recognize the facts. By faith, we accept the gospel as the word of God. In faith, we believe the person of God. In the act of faith, says Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica 2.2.q.11,a.1), a person enters into a personal relationship with the God who speaks to him.
Faith draws us into converse with God. Quite readily, we make the sign of the cross. That expression of faith first occurred at baptism, when the priest traced on the forehead a cross, and then the mother and father did the same, followed by the godparents. The baptized is thus marked as a Christian; and when that person, when you and I make the sign of the cross, we utter a prayer, whispering with our creator. Our faith unites us with God.
By faith we recite the Nicene Creed each Sunday, proclaiming my adherence to God—creator, redeemer, sanctifier. By faith we receive the Eucharist when we speak heart to heart with our Lord Jesus Christ. At this Eucharistic moment, our emotions erupt in faith, and we pray, saying, “I believe, help Thou my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24).
In this Year of Faith, Pope Benedict has called the church together and relates that God has opened a door of faith for us (Acts of Apostles 14:27). In entering, we refresh and grow our faith. Amen!