Jesus Protects the Catholic Church
April 30th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
Today’s readings give us a beautiful subject for meditation: the Catholic Church. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of the ordination of the first deacons. The early Church was growing quickly, and the Apostles were unable to perform all their sacred duties while continuing their ever-increasing charitable works each day. In this passage, we see the Twelve (St. Matthias having been chosen as the replacement of Judas) leading the other disciples. The Twelve announced that they needed deacons, and it was they who laid their hands on the heads of the seven men and ordained them to the diaconate. Thus, even in the earliest days of the Church, there was an ecclesiastical hierarchy. The Twelve Apostles were the first bishops, and they ordained the first deacons.
In the Gospel, the Apostles were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. There was a strong wind, and the Apostles had to fight against the waves. They rowed like this for three or four miles before Jesus appeared to them. When He did appear, they immediately became afraid. They had probably felt scared during the storm, fearing that the boat would capsize, and now they showed even more fear in the presence of Jesus. However, Jesus told them to not be afraid. At this, they invited Him into the boat; however, at that moment, they suddenly reached the shore.
In theology, the boat is seen as a symbol of the Church. It struggles to stay afloat in the strong waves of the storm; the Apostles in the Gospel have to row very hard to travel just a few miles. Yet they do not capsize. “[T]he gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat 16:18b DRB), and so they do not. Even in the strong wind and crashing waves, Jesus protects His Church.
During times such as this, it is easy for the members of the Church Militant to lose hope. Christ seems so far away, and the waves threatening the boat seem so tall and dangerous. However, as we know from the Gospels, Jesus is more powerful than the strongest of storms – both earthly and spiritual. He continually reminds His Church, His Bride: “It is I. Do not be afraid.”
The Church must follow the example of her first earthly shepherds and invite Christ into the boat. When we try to shut Him out, relying on the strength of ourselves rather than on Him, the sea swells, and the waves threaten to overcome us. As Catholics, we must continually invite Christ to enter the boat, to remain in the hearts of His faithful ones and help them ride out the storm unafraid.
When the Apostles invited Him into their boat, they “immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.” When we invite Christ into our hearts, He leads us to Himself, which is our ultimate end. If we allow ourselves to become distracted and filled with fear at the storm, we can become lost, wandering like sheep without a shepherd. Let us remember to always turn to Him, trusting that He will lead His Church to verdant pastures and safe harbours, and ultimately to our heavenly Home.