If we analyze the events throughout history, we can see that God allows souls and great institutions moments of great tribulation. Why?
Newsdesk (22/06/2021 01:05, Gaudium Press): We read in the Scriptures that Our Lord, amidst long journeys, teaching and preaching uninterruptedly to the people, sought rest in three refuges: on the mountain, in the desert, or in the boat.
After Our Lord gave the Sermon on the Mount and performed signs and healings in Capernaum, we find in today’s liturgy the Divine Master’s decision to set out with His disciples toward the sea; for Christ sought rest for Himself and His own.
“On the evening of that day,” says the Gospel, “the disciples, having dismissed the crowds, went with Jesus into the boat. No sooner had they entered the waters than a strong gale blew up, and the waves beat against the boat so that it began to fill. But Jesus was at the back, asleep on a pillow. Then the disciples, overcome with dread, awoke Him and said:
“‘Master, we are perishing, and do you not care?’ He stood up and commanded the wind and the sea: ‘Silence! Hush!’ Then the wind ceased and there was a great calm. Jesus then asked His disciples, ‘Why are you so fearful? Do you not yet have faith?’ They were greatly afraid and said to one another, ‘Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'” (Mk 4:38-41)
In commenting on this passage of St Matthew’s Gospel, St John Chrysostom points out a certain detail unnoticed by St Mark: even before ordering the sea to be calm, Jesus first addresses the Apostles, saying: “Men of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Mt 8:26). That is, “even before he calms the storm, he appeases the storm of their souls, and rebukes them for their lack of faith, for they were not yet able to believe that Jesus was able to perform a miracle, being asleep.”
Now, why did Our Lord allow this storm? Is it a punishment for the Apostles’ lack of faith? St. Chrysostom answers, “The Lord permitted this storm to strengthen them in faith, and to give them this trial as a prelude to the storms that would come upon them.”
The inner storms
If we analyze events, we see that throughout history God has also allowed souls and great institutions moments of great tribulation.
Along these lines, the Carmelite Saint John of the Cross calls such trials “dark nights”. That is to say, occasions when, “the closer the soul draws near to God, the deeper the darkness it feels, the greater the gloom, because of its own weakness.” Sometimes, in the midst of the storm, one or another ray falls on the troubled waters of our soul and illuminates our horizon, but soon darkness obscures this light, and we find ourselves again in darkness. These are the “murky waters, symbolic of the darkness of our understanding, and the clouded contemplation of God.”
How then to unite with the Creator? “If thou wilt, O soul, be united and betrothed to Me, thou must come inwardly clothed with faith.” For “this whiteness of faith clothes the soul on the way out of this dark night, when it walks amidst inward darkness.”
God tests the soul in this way because He wants to see it “detached from the things of the world, removing its heart from all these things, without holding fast to anything, that He might raise it, with strength and courage, to the heights of eternal life”. Therefore, “trust in God, for He does not abandon those who seek Him with a simple and upright heart. He will not fail to give them what they need on the way to leading them to the clear and pure light of Love.”
Saint Catherine of Siena, the great fourteenth-century mystic, was a picture of complete correspondence amid the ‘dark nights’ of her life. It is said that while she was still young, shortly after she received the habit of the Order of St. Dominic, she suffered severe temptations against purity. Many demons surrounded her, repeating impure and obscene words in her ears, but she took refuge in prayer and cried out to God to calm the storm within her. However, no voice was heard, no supernatural help seemed to come to her rescue. In that interior struggle in which she found herself, God seemed to rest in a deep sleep.
One day, however, on her way back from church, Our Lord appeared to her, radiant with light, and Catherine, overflowing with joy, exclaimed,
” Lord, where were you when my heart was tormented with so many impurities?”
“Catherine,” Our Lord replied, “I was in your heart! I was working in you, I was defending your heart against the enemy; I was in your interior and I did not allow the attacks of the devil to take place, except when they could have resulted in your salvation.”
Amidst the storms of Peter’s boat
Now, as previously mentioned, it is not only upon souls that these ‘dark nights’ come. The Holy Church, in Her two thousand years of existence, has at times also passed through these tribulations: heresies, martyrdoms, betrayals, and horrendous abominations were unleashed upon her. These have been moments when Peter’s boat seemed doomed to capsize in the deepest sea of complete rejection by the wicked, and also by the lukewarmness of the good. Yet the words of Christ, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against Her,” have always resounded in the darkness of the calamitous storms, making Her rise again: rejuvenated, holy, and immaculate.
If in the present circumstances God seems to ‘sleep’, let us not doubt that His intervention is near, for He has promised: “Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).
By Guilherme Motta
1] Cf. REMÍGIO. Apud TOMMASO D’AQUINO. Catena aurea: Vangelo secondo Marco IV, 35-41. Bologna: ESD, 2012, v. 3, p. 169.
2] JUAN CRISOSTOMO. Homilies on San Mateo XXVIII, n. 1. Madrid: BAC, 2007, v. 57, p. 568.
3] Ibid., p. 570.
4] JOHN OF THE CROSS. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night, Cautions. Rio de Janeiro: Vozes, 1960, p. 377.
5] JOHN OF THE CROSS. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night, Cautions. Rio de Janeiro: Vozes, 1960, pp. 377-378.
6] Ibid., p. 394.
7] JOHN OF THE CROSS. The Ascent of Mount Carmel, Dark Night, Cautions. Rio de Janeiro: Vozes, 1960, pp. 377-378.
8] Ibid., pp. 394-395.
9] Ibid., p. 315.
10] Cf. ALVAREZ, Paulino. Saint Catalina of Siena. ed. 3. Vitoria: Vergara, 1926, pp. 74-75.
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