Translation of the Epistle to the Romans

Brethren: Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law. For Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal: Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet: and if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The love of our neighbor worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.

Translation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt, 1632


At that time, when Jesus entered into the boat, His disciples followed Him: and behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but He was asleep. And His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish. And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up, He commanded the winds and the sea, and there came a great calm. But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?

Transcription of Audio 

The saving words of the Gospel

In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen

Most likely, for the Apostles, there were perks in following our Lord and walking through towns where people came out to see Him. They could see the adulation and, perhaps, thought some of it was for them as well. They were true followers of Christ, but they’re constantly being tested, just as any one of us is constantly being tested. And then, they find themselves no longer amid admiring crowds, but they are literally in the same boat as Christ. And then, we have these words σεισμὸς μέγας ἐγένετο ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ (seismós mégas egéneto en tí thalássi),  σεισμὸς μέγας (seismós mégas). So this is… it’s not even a storm. The word in Greek is σεισμὸς (seismós); it’s a quaking, it’s shaking, the entire sea is agitated. And it’s a great agitation it says. We know how the story ends, but it’s probably a little difficult for us to put ourselves in their shoes and understand the depth of fear that they endured. 

It says the waves began to cover the boat. And so, faith is demanded. Our Lord later chastises them for lack of faith. They, and we, often show a certain lack of faith in many situations that ultimately reveal ourselves to ourselves, things that we weren’t expecting, horrible traumas. I remember when I was in the seminary, one of my fellow seminarians received a letter from his mother, who was a very pious woman, who had been mugged when she went to go visit her daughter in the Bronx, who was with the Missionaries of Charity. And she and her husband got mugged, and she said she just went into survival mode. She never thought for a moment about our Lord, about anything except for surviving. That’s natural. We’re made like that. And nonetheless, our Lord asks us for something more than what is natural because He gives us the tools. Precisely the theological virtues through grace.

Fear is a very powerful thing. John says in his First Letter, Chapter Four I believe, that true love casts out all fear. All fear. True love casts out of fear. So, fear then isn’t blind. We’re not unaware of our circumstances. Thomas Aquinas, when he speaks about courage, says that the truly courageous man takes into account all of the dangers at hand, but he’s not ruled by them. He also takes into account prudence and what ought to be done. But we can’t get away from the fact that our Lord chastises them for their lack of faith. So there’s something there at odds in their fear. There’s something they’re at odds with the Faith.

The Eternal Word became flesh, took upon Himself our nature precisely so that our faith can also become a fleshly reality; something that takes shape and it’s visible, visible in actions. What our Lord wanted to see, and didn’t, in His disciples was that this fear would be summoned up and transformed into even a visceral uncompromising trust. But in such moments, phobias, threats, traumas, dark compulsions, they can either rue the day or cling to our Lord. It’s not a natural reaction, but our Lord gives us the tools in order to do something more.

And He’s asleep. He’s still present, but He’s asleep. Sleep is kind of like an absent presence or a present absence, I’m not sure how to call it. But there’s something mysterious about sleep, where the body is there and the mind seems to be elsewhere. We can sometimes perhaps have that same experience of Christ asleep when we come into Adoration. We know with our mind that He’s there but it doesn’t seem like anything’s happening in my prayer. Doesn’t seem like there’s a connection of communion going on. But His slumber is not indifference but reveals how far into the depths of our being He has plumbed those parts precisely that we are not even awake to. And that’s precisely what He wants to redeem in us, in our subconscious even, the place where we’re unaware of, a place where we never visit, something that we don’t even know how to describe, we’ve never even seen perhaps, and we certainly don’t feel at home with ourselves there. And nonetheless, He wants to penetrate to that, and He has, and He resides there. But He wants us to give that to Him intentionally. And so His sleep wants to elicit this act of faith.

And it’s His presence, His living presence that makes all the difference. Asleep or awake makes no matter. He wants to heal the wounds that we have deep down in our subconscious, in our memory. It would be good to take stock: Where have I succumbed to this primal fear? Where have I had a momentary despair? Because that precisely, that moment, it can be a split-second long, that momentary despair. Trauma, fear, is an open door that can bring in an undesired and uninvited guest. All he needs is a split second. And the Enemy doesn’t have to have the last word in this. So what do we do?

We’ve all had traumas. We’ve all had bad experiences. We’ve all had things where the last thing we thought about was our Lord. And then we have this horrible thing happen to us. Could be a car accident, could be anything. So many different things and each one of us has their own history and baggage that perhaps allowed, in an instantaneous act of despair, allowed access to the enemy to our memories. John Henry Newman, in his sermon on the intellectual sufferings of Christ, says that our Lord refused to drink the drugged wine because He wanted to have absolute clarity of mind and, thereby, redeem our memories. So that’s the hope, it’s in the precious blood of Christ.

And this is an exercise any one of us can do in our time of Adoration, and our time of meditation we meditate on Christ’s Passion. We go to visit Him in the Eucharist. It’s very healthy to expose those things in our depths where He’s asleep to Him as a choice that we make and He can truly redeem and heal our memories. And how do we do this? It is very simple. Our Lord doesn’t make things complicated. We were pretty good at that. He doesn’t make things complicated. We go to that event in prayer. It’s not fantasy. This is prayer. We go to that event in our life, a particular event that might have a grip on us. And we see the truth that Christ was there asleep. Christ was there. His presence was real. And if we suffered something He suffered it even more than we did. His suffering is perfect.

And what did He say to Saul who was on his way to Damascus, He didn’t say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting My Catholics? Why are you persecuting My followers? Why are you persecuting the Church?” He said, “Why are you persecuting Me?” Why? Because as members of the Church, we are members of the Mystical Body. He is the head, whatever we experience He experiences but He experiences with perfection. He has absolute total knowledge of every trauma and fear we’ve ever experienced. So why not give that to Him, so that He can pour out His precious blood over that? So in our meditation, we see that particular moment each one of us has several, and we see Him present. We see Him. He is the context, He’s asleep in us, He dwells within us, whatever it was, He suffered, and we asked Him to take His precious blood and shower it over the memory of that event. And that it’s like a spiritual communion for the memory. The memory is the devil’s playground. So why give him a free hand? Why not intentionally handed over to the Precious Blood of Christ, for Him to heal and reveal? He will act if we ask Him to.

It takes an act of trust, something similar to the trust of the Apostles in the moment of this great quaking of the sea. And perhaps it takes a supreme act of trust because there’s already hurt there. And we say, “Well, where were you?” He was there, but we haven’t handed it over to Him. We haven’t given it to Him to be purified. We haven’t given it to Him to be redeemed. And we allow these experiences to fragment us. And what Christ does is He brings about an integration of the fragments. He brings them together so that there can be integrity there. A unicity, a unity, and a healing and that’s what His Precious Blood does. If we ask Him, and all He needs is for us to ask Him and He will act.

In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen

— Fr. Ermatinger