“Do you not yet have faith?” This question of Christ could be directed not only at the Twelve with Him in the boat, but also to our generation, to modern man. It seems that modern man, since the so-called Enlightenment, has progressed beyond faith towards reason as the principal method for engaging the world. Modern man will cry out in relief that he is freed from the oppression of faith and religion and is now capable of moving forwards towards a bright new future, towards achieving the ultimate goal of bringing about paradise on earth.
Yet the century we have so recently closed demonstrates to us the limits of this feigned reason: the exaltation of nations over God, the devastating effects of modern war, the rise of ideologies in place of faith and against reason. How persistent, though, modern man can be in his mad-dash quest to find something other than faith to cling to, to build upon. For modern man ultimately fears being a subject, being ruled by someone other than himself, and he fears that faith will make him the meanest, the lowest of subjects in the cosmic order.
Yet the truth is the opposite: faith, instead of lowering us, is what elevates us towards God, towards Him who is the ultimate Good. Modern man is looking backwards at the whole order when he thinks faith will keep him in the dirt. It is reason alone and unaided which leaves man squalid in his spiritual poverty. But by faith, God raises the soul above the merely human and brings it closer to Himself. By faith, we become the human beings we were meant to be when God first created us in Eden. By faith, we realize the full potential of our humanity as being the image and likeness of the divinity, and not merely as a rational animal.
Look at the Gospel account for today. The disciples have been following Christ for some time now. They have heard His authoritative teachings, they have witnessed His power over those who are sick and in need of healing, they have even perhaps seen some of the great miracles that Christ worked, such as raising people from the dead. And yet, in spite of all this, they are still petrified of a thunderstorm when Christ is in their very midst. Thus that indicting question from Our Lord: Do you not yet have faith?
It seems to us from what we have just heard that indeed they really do not have faith in Christ, for they question each other about the calming of the sea by a man, saying, “Who then is this, whom even wind and sea obey?” Who else can the elements obey but their Creator, the One who gave them form and shape and order and purpose at the very beginning of time. Who else can they obey but God?!
How much are we like the disciples in that boat on the Sea of Galilee? We have heard Christ teach to us time and time again, proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God and the time of repentance. We have heard proclaimed again and again the wonders of His earthly life, such as today’s account. Yet, do we really believe that this Jesus of Nazareth is truly the Emmanuel, the God among us? And do we give Him the assent that is due to that faith, that belief in the divinity of Christ?
To be a Catholic does not mean to be just a member of the crowd, as one who joins a club or group. To be a Catholic in this day and age in particular means to stand against the wisdom of this age, which belittles faith and exalts man to the point of making him into his own god. To be a Catholic in every day and age means to believe what the Church has proclaimed since the day of Pentecost: that the Second Person of the Trinity descended from the eternal realities and became incarnate of the Virgin, lived, preached, suffered, died, and rose again from the dead, ascending at last to the right hand of God the Father until the last day.
It is only in faith that we can be an actual Catholic, for these mysteries are beyond our usual comprehension. These are matters which we cannot surmise by our own reflection and rationalizing, no matter how smart we may be. This indicates to us the limits of reason when it comes to dealing with reality. Even now, in this age of science and technology, we cannot on our own grasp the truths of the universe. But God has willed to reveal them to us, if only we will believe.
“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Christ asks in St. Luke’s Gospel. Indeed, can He find faith now, while He is still waiting for the Last Day? Let us beseech God that we may be true disciples of Christ, believing every word that He has uttered and continues to utter through His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Let us begin to believe more fervently than ever all that is presented to us, most especially the creeds we profess each Sunday, letting those words not be empty bellowings, but echoes of the faithful heart.
Let us, finally, desire not only to believe, but to transform that belief into action. Faith is not something that can be turned on and off; on when we are at Mass or when we pray, off when we are doing something else. Every one of our actions should be driven by our faith; each one becoming an exterior realization of the interior reality of faith. As Saint James reminds us in his epistle: “Faith without works is dead.” Either our faith begins to animate our lives or it becomes the means whereby we condemn ourselves before Christ as false witnesses and unfaithful subjects. But, through the grace of God, we are capable of rising above this mortal coil and beginning to touch the eternal realities through Him who bridged that gap in His sacred humanity. Let us believe this so that we may receive the reward of faith, the prize for enduring the stormy seas of modernity, the one thing which Christ promised those who are faithful: the realization of our faith in the glories of eternal life.