St. Augustine’s preaching eloquence is legendary. Always quotable, St. Augustine was a master of bringing the Scriptures alive in his passionate, if lengthy, sermons. One of his most famous (and succinct!) sermons focuses on today’s Gospel of Christ stilling the storm on the Sea of Galilee. After reading it again in preparation for writing about the Gospel, I was inspired simply to share it with you in its entirety. Enjoy! ~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.
“I have something to say to you, if the Lord enables me to do so, about the reading from the holy Gospel which we have this moment heard, and in it I want to urge you not to let the faith sleep in your hearts against the storms and waves of this world. After all, it can scarcely be true that Christ the Lord had power over death, and did not have power over sleep, and that sleep possibly overtook the Almighty against His will, as He was sailing out. If you do believe this, He is asleep in you, but if Christ is awake in you, your faith is awake too. The Apostle says, That Christ may dwell through faith in your hearts (Ephesians 3:17). So even the sleep of Christ is a sign and sacred symbol. The people sailing in the boat are souls crossing the present age on a paltry piece of wood (Wisdom 10:4). The boat was also a figure of the Church. We are all of us temples of God, and every one of us is sailing a boat in his heart, and we don’t suffer shipwreck if we think good thoughts.
You have heard an insult—it’s a high wind; you’ve gotten angry— it’s a wave. So as the wind blows and the waves break, the boat is in peril, your heart is in peril, your heart is tossed about. When you hear the insult, you are eager to avenge it; you do avenge it, and by giving way to someone else’s evil, you suffer shipwreck. And why is that? Because Christ is asleep in you. What does it mean that Christ is asleep in you? That you have forgotten Christ. So wake Christ up, remember Christ; let Christ stay awake in you, think about Him.
What were you wanting? Revenge. It has escaped your memory that He, when He was being crucified, said, Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). The One who was asleep there in your heart did not want revenge. Wake him up, call him to mind. The memory of Him is His word; the memory of Him is His command. And if Christ is awake in you, you will say to yourself, ‘What sort of person am I, wanting to get my own back? Who am I, brandishing menaces against another human being? I may well die before I get my own back. And when I depart from the body in a rage, breathing out fire and slaughter, thirsting for revenge, that One who did not wish to be avenged won’t receive me. No, He won’t receive me, the One who said, Give, and it will be given you, forgive and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:38, 37). So I will restrain my anger, and return to calmness of heart.’ Christ has commanded the sea, and there has come a great calm.
What have I said about anger, you should hold onto as a rule to be followed in all your temptations. A temptation arises, it’s a wind; you are troubled by a wave. Wake Christ up, let Him talk to you. Who is this, when even the winds and the sea obey Him? (Matthew 8:27). Who is this, whom the sea obeys? He is the sea, and He made it (Psalm 95:5). All things were made through Him (John 1:13). Imitate the winds and the sea instead: submit to the creator. At Christ’s command the sea hears, and will you be deaf? The sea hears, and the wind drops, and are you still blowing? ‘What do you mean?’ I say things, I do things, I think things up—what else is that but blowing, and not dropping at the word of Christ? Don’t let the waves overwhelm you when your heart is upset by a temptation. And yet because we are human, if the wind has driven us on and shaken our souls with passion, don’t let us despair; let us wake up Christ, and so sail on in a calm sea, and reach our home country. Amen.”
~Fr. Michael Hurley, OP