Thursday, August 04, 2005

Fr. Paul Scalia on "walking on water"

Fr. Scalia comments on the gospel for the Catholic Herald here.

First we must understand that our Lord’s walking on the water was not just an amazing stunt. It was an act that revealed His divinity. Scripture describes God as having authority over the waters. He divides the Red Sea in two, turns the Jordan back on its course, and "treads upon the crests of the sea." (Jb 9:8). Our Lord’s walking on the water indicates just such authority and thus reveals His divinity. To confirm this, He says to the Apostles, "It is I" — literally, "I am" — the very name the Lord revealed when He spoke to Moses through the burning bush (cf. Ex 3:14).

St. Peter’s walking on the water is clearly a confirmation of his faith in Christ’s divinity. St. Peter himself gives this interpretation before the miracle occurs: "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water" (Mt 14:28). But we miss the point if we see it as only that. For by walking on water, St. Peter performs the same incredible action as our Lord. He acts in the likeness of Christ. More to the point, he performs the same miraculous action that reveals Christ’s divinity. St. Peter’s walking on water indicates that our Lord has given him a share in His divine authority.

So the scene provides an apt image of the pope’s authority. The pope — St. Peter and his successors — possesses headship over the Church on earth, which is at least as difficult and amazing as walking on water. The pope holds the authority even to speak infallibly for the entire Church. Of course, our Lord alone is the Head of the Church. But each pope, from Peter to Benedict, is the "Vicar of Christ," the one who stands in His place to teach, rule and sanctify with His authority.
The Pope is the "Vicar of Christ" to the extent that he fixes his eyes on Jesus:
If viewed in merely human terms, this authority is terrifying, dizzying and might give us a sinking feeling. In the view of the world, according to human wisdom, no man can possess the authority of God on earth any more than he can walk on water. So also St. Peter, when he took his eyes off our Lord and lost the supernatural outlook, began to sink.

Here then is a lesson for us — that we can never take our gaze off Christ nor regard the pope except in the light of Christ. The Catholic Church does not view the pope apart from Christ, or from a worldly, merely human perspective. Papal authority proceeds from faith in Christ as the Son of God, and directs us to Him Who "treads upon the crests of the sea."
What else can a Fool say?