“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Our Lord asks this question to the disciples and he asks it to us – to challenge us to live out our faith amidst the storms of this life. This year the Third Sunday after Trinity also falls on the Feast of the Translation of St Richard of Chichester, Bishop and champion of the church against the state. I like many people came to know him through the words of his prayer, most of which was recited by him upon his deathbed: Thanks be to thee my Lord Jesus Christ for all the benefits Thou hast given me, For all the pains and insults Thou hast borne for me.
Richard had a difficult and eventful life, trying to reform the life and practices of the clergy, and defending the church from interference by the state – some things it would seem in this country never change! In the face of a secular power who wished to tell the Church what to do, Richard said No. He was a man of great learning and sanctity, a great friend to the poor who lived out his charity in his life, but above all else he was a man of principle who resisted the encroachment of secular power into matters which belong to the Church. Oh that we had his like amongst our bishops nowadays! Someone to tell the lower House of Parliament to mind its own business and not meddle in matters which do not concern it, that the Church cannot be bullied into accepting the will of such a godless brood of vipers: corrupt, amoral, and enslaved to a godless ideology – seeking to conform the Church to the world and to make up a perversion of the Gospel after their own tastes. And may God have mercy on their souls.
The only way to resist is by being both polite and firm, but most of all by practising that charity which lies at the heart of the Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ – in our care for the poor and the downtrodden, in our living out of our faith. If we follow the example of St Richard, and refuse to compromise the Gospel and live out our faith we can truly said to be following Christ, who came to call the world to repentance, to turn away from selfishness and sin.
We cannot let the light of our faith be hidden under a bushel, it has to shine as a light to the world, dispelling the darkness of sin and sloth, or that polite indifference so inimical to the zeal of the gospel. Only through this can the Church grow to be like the mustard tree so that all may be safe in its embrace, freed from sin, and rejoicing in the new life of Christ. It’s not easy, but that’s the point, when was anything worthwhile easy to achieve? Let us remember that we have that greatest of treasures, the pearl of great price which is faith in Christ, so let us share it, unafraid of the storms of this world since we trust in Him, who has overcome this world, sin and death, for our sake. Let us trust him, and love him, and each other, so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now, and forever.