The Storm and the Waves
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Sermon preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, August 25, 2013
As we begin let me introduce you to an interesting fact from Jungian psychology. When bodies of water appear in dreams or visions they are often recognized as metaphors for the unconscious. Notice that the storm in today’s Gospel happens on the Sea of Galilee and the Savior comes to them walking on the sea. The storm comes from the within and the solution also comes from the within. Notice also that Jesus commands the apostles to get into the boat and go across the sea. The experience of the stormy sea is a necessary element to spiritual growth and salvation.
Faith is a process and it involves three stages (Revelation, endurance, acceptance) and a final development: a creative force is born that deifies, the breaking through of the kingdom of heaven.
The Apostles are challenged to the core today by the storm on the Sea as we often are by the storms of life. The storm revealed the fear of death that hid in the hearts of these rough fishermen as it does in the heart of all of us. And it revealed something else - Christ in the midst of the storm. This does not quite do it for the apostles. They are shaken by an even greater fear. Ghosts! The Greek word suggests that on seeing him walking on the water they were frightened nearly out of their wits. All this revealing is necessary. This is the first step in the process of faith.
The second is endurance. The storm does not kill them. The intensifying fear does not undo them. In the process of faith things often seem to get worse before they get better. Faith always moves us into troubled waters. It is the inner work of purification. This is what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” The cup must be entirely cleaned and from the inside out. That is the second step: endurance. Before we can walk on the water we have to learn how to ride the waves.
Acceptance comes when Peter recognizes Jesus in the center of the storm and the goes out of the boat to join him. He asks for and receives the blessing to leave the boat. Was he out of his mind? Acceptance often seems that way. Once we have embraced the reality of the moment, the storm and the solution at the center of the storm, then we are at the moment of acceptance, when faith begins to create something brand new, creative, and before then, unimaginable.
But it takes time for faith to grow and become ascendent. The process is messy and halting. Peter sinks and is lifted up again as we are every time we fall. Each time we fall and each time we rise patterns of acceptance are developed and slowly we learn to rise more quickly and fall less frequently. Slowly, the truth grows that everything, as we have said, unfolds in Christ. There is no calm and there is no storm without Him. We rise and fall in him.
Faith gives rise to new, unexpected things and brand new undreamed-of possibilities. This is the creative final stage of the process when the energy of creativity is released and we are swept up in the new creation, the new heaven and the new earth. It is the discovery of the glory of God in us that propels us beyond the , moralistic, legalistic, pietistic righteousness of the Pharisee into the kingdom of heaven.
Thomas Merton sums all this up for us:
You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our life, which is inaccessable to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us.
This point is that Christ is at the center of every storm. And the center of every storm is inside of us. From this interior place we draw our strength to see what must be revealed to endure the revealing, to embrace what is revealed, and then to be utterly reborn. Faith is a process of spiritual growth and, once we see this, faith makes it possible for us to navigate any circumstance of life without fear.