With the Lord's help I want to speak to you about today's reading from the holy gospel, and to urge you in his name not to let your faith lie dormant in your hearts when you are buffeted by the winds and waves of this world.
The Lord Christ's power is by no means dead, nor is it asleep.
Do you think the Almighty was overcome by sleep in the boat against his will? If you do, then Christ is asleep in your hearts. If he were indeed keeping watch within you, then your faith too would be vigilant. The Apostle, remember, speaks of Christ dwelling in your hearts through faith.
This sleep of Christ has a symbolic meaning. The boat's crew are human souls sailing across the sea of this world in a wooden vessel. That vessel, of course, also represents the Church; but as each one of us is a temple of God, each one's heart is a sailing boat, nor can it be wrecked so long as we fill our minds only with what is good.
When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind; when your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering.
On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune—shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you.
What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him.
Now what was your desire? You wanted to get your own back. You have forgotten that when Christ was being crucified he said: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Christ, the sleeper in your heart, had no desire for vengeance in his. Rouse him, then, call him to mind. (To remember him is to recall his words; to remember him is to recall his commands.)
Then, when he is awake within you, you will ask yourself, “Whatever kind of wretch am I to be thirsting for revenge? Who am I to threaten another? Suppose I were to die before I were avenged! Suppose I were to take leave of my body breathing out threats, inflamed with rage and thirsting for that vengeance which Christ himself never sought; would he not refuse to receive me? He who said, “Give and it shall be given you; forgive and you will be forgiven,” would indeed decline to acknowledge me. So I will curb my anger and restore peace to my heart.”
Now all is calm again. Christ has rebuked the sea. What I have said about anger must be your rule of conduct in every temptation. A temptation arises: it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea.
This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of those words: “Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.” Who is this whom the sea obeys? It is he to whom the sea belongs, for he made it; all things were made through him.
Try, then, to be more like the wind and the sea; obey the God who made you. The sea obeys Christ's command, and are you going to turn a deaf ear to it? The sea obeys him, the wind is still; will you persist with your blustering?
Words, actions, schemes, what are all these but a constant buffing and puffing, a refusal to be still at Christ's command?
When your heart is in this troubled state, do not let the waves overwhelm you. If, since we are only human, the driving wind should stir up in us a tumult of emotions, let us not despair but awaken Christ, so that we may sail in quiet waters, and at last reach our heavenly homeland.
Sermon 63, 1-3: PL 38, 424-25
Augustine (354-430) was born at Thagaste in Africa and received a Christian education, although he was not baptized until 387. In 391 he was ordained priest and in 395 he became coadjutor bishop to Valerius of Hippo, whom he succeeded in 396. Augustine's theology was formulated in the course of his struggle with three heresies: Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism His writings are voluminous and his influence on subsequent theology immense. He molded the thought of the Middle Ages down to the thirteenth century. Yet he was above all a pastor and a great spiritual writer.