Year of Faith, Article II - Peace Be Still!
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him,
"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Quiet! Be still!" (Emphasis mine)
The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, "Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?" They were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?" (Mk 4:38-41)
Note: This was the topic for April however it seems appropriate for this month taking into consideration the turmoil the Church has been going through since Pope Benedict XVI renounced his Petrine ministry last month.
It is interesting that Pope Benedict XVI like previous popes hinted at the imagery of the Church as a ship going through murky waters – what foresight! Actually, the Year of Faith logo according to the Vatican website is:
composed of a square, bordered field on which a boat, symbolizing the Church, is represented as sailing on a graphically minimal representation of waves. The main mast of the boat is a cross from which sails are displayed in the form of dynamic signs which compose the trigram of Christ (IHS). The background to the sails is a sun which, associated with the trigram, refers also to the Eucharist (see Annusfidei).
Is it coincidental that others gone before us, like St. Hippolytus (A.D 170), Pope and martyr, St. Clement of Rome (A.D. 190), Pope Leo XIII (A.D.1878) likened the Church to a ship tossed in the deep waters? Pope St. Clement of Rome summarized this conundrum very well which is captured in Di Berardino’s Ancient Christian Doctrine as anecdotes:
Passengers (laity) – remain quiet lest our agitation causes the ship to keel over;
Deacons – continue to be of service, just as you were called to do (Acts 6:1-6)
Priests – take care of the faithful through your priestly ministry (Heb. 7:21)
Bishops – ponder the Word of God (much needed now for the conclave!)
We are all called to act according to our status in the Church and allow Christ to be the Pilot. Pope St. Clement of Rome exhorted the church to look to Christ alone who will steer the ship safely ashore and also noted the Church needs to go through purgation. In fact, he likened it to sick persons throwing up all the "yucky" stuff out of their guts - "sins of bitterness…lust…" (Di Berardino, 2010, p. 50). Maybe, it is high time we did some major spring cleaning in the Church beginning with us - yes, each one of us.
There you have it! Newsflash! - What the Church is facing is normal; yet we have the assurance of Christ as he said to Peter, "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:17-18). So, be still and know that Jesus is Lord!
Water gives life, it is cleansing and yet it can also kill – floods and hurricanes attest to this fact. The symbolism of a ship in distress is not lost on the Church. What the disciples failed to realize was the fact that Jesus though sleeping was still in their midst! It is the same with the Church, though we are going through a truly rough time, we still have Christ at the helm of affairs – at least during the sacrifice of the mass we still invoke the power of the Holy Spirit (which Christ left us) to transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ!
If only we will be still and allow the Holy Spirit to do its work, that is transcend all cultural hegemony; we will not be like the disciples in the boat who could not understand why the Master was sleeping while the tempest was raging. Christ was sleeping because he created the very sea and winds and he alone had power to calm them Genesis 1: 9-10). As stated in Isaiah 55: 11 the word of God does not return to him void; there is action whenever the word of God is proclaimed. Pope Benedict XVI put in better terms as he noted,
while Christ, ‘holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb. 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb. 2:17)... the Church ... clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26) (AnnusFidei)
As the cardinals gather to pray for the election of a new pope, may we remember that despite all the scandals and ridicule, Christ is still holding us in the palm of his hand and will see us through. Christ is still clasping us (sinners) to his bosom and assuring us to be still because he is with us (Emmanuel). Instead of speculating as to who will do the best "job", let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the disciples did Acts of the Apostles in choosing Matthias. Another Newsflash – the cardinals just like the apostles will cast lots.
My prayer is that the grace and peace of God which supersedes all understanding will be with us in these trying times. Wicks (2007) once said, "when grace is present, even our vulnerabilities can teach rather than simply deflate us" (Wicks, p. 96)
Allow me to end with a quote from Pope Benedict, "One thing that will be of decisive importance in this Year is retracing the history of our faith, marked as it is by the unfathomable mystery of the interweaving of holiness and sin" (Porta Fidei, par 6.) Well said, Pope Benedict XVI, thank you for your service to the Church! Peace, be still!
Dorothy Mensah-Aggrey, MA
Administrative Specialist-Curriculum Design & Adult Catechesis
University of Dayton
Institute for Pastoral Initiatives
Di Berardino, A. (2010). Ancient Christian Doctrine (5): We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (series ed. Oden, T. C.) ICCS. Institute for Classical
Christian Studies. InterVarsity Press/Green Press USA. www.intervarsity.org
http:/ / www.annusfidei.va/ content/ novaevangelizatio/ en/ annus-fidei.html
Pope Benedict XVI. (2012). Porta Fidei: Apostolic Letter "Motu Proprio Data" The Door of Faith. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20111011_porta-fidei_en.html
The New American Bible (Saint Joseph Ed. 1991). Catholic Book Publishing Corp: New York.
Wicks, R. J. (2007). Crossing the desert: Learning to let go, see clearly, and live simply. Sorin Books, Notre Dame: IN.
Note: This is a series of articles that will be published once a month during the Year of Faith taking a different perspective on the biblical aspects of the Year of Faith.
Original Release Date: Mar. 2013