Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 14:22-36

22. And forthwith Jesus obliged his disciples to go up into the boat, and to go before him over the water, till he dismissed the people.
23. And having dismissed the multitude, he went up into a mountain alone to pray. And when it was evening, he was there alone.
24. But the boat in the midst of the sea was tossed with the waves, for the wind was contrary.

“Jesus obliged his disciples,” i. e. constrained them on account of their too great, and not wholly supernatural, affection for him, so that they would have remained, had he not shown great determination (Chrysostom, Jerome Euthymius). He wished them “to go up into the boat, and go before him. over the water,” not merely to avoid the multitude [cf. Chrysostom], nor to avoid an occasion of vainglory [cf. Albert. Thomas. Jansenius.], but probably that they might not be carried away by their Messianic expectations on seeing the attempt of making him king [Jn 6:15; cf. Schanz]. “He went into a mountain [  εις το ορος] alone to pray “in order to teach us the proper preparation for prayer, requiring first, solitude [Chrysostom, Thomas]; secondly, quiet and peace of mind, ” having dismissed the multitude”; thirdly, elevation  of soul, “into a mountain”; at the same time, Jesus prays not because he needs it, but because he is the high priest of the New Testament [Cyril of Alexandria; cf. Jn 17:9 ff.]; as such he prays before all the most important steps in the founding of the Church, e. g. the election of the apostles [Lk 6:12], the promise of the primacy [Lk 9:18], the Eucharistic discourse [Jn 6:35], “When it was evening” refers to the second evening [6-9 o’clock]. “The boat” had been directed towards Capharnaum [Jn 6:17], by way of Bethsaida [Mk 6:45], so that its first course was towards the northwest; but “the wind was contrary,” blowing from the northeast, and “tossed [the boat] with the waves,” so that after a rounded course of 25 or 80 furlongs [Jn 6:19] the boat was “in the midst of the sea,” the whole breadth of which was about 40. stadia or furlongs [Josephus Jewish Wars III. x. 7].

25. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking upon the sea.
26. And they seeing him walking upon the sea, were troubled, saying: It is an apparition. And they cried out for fear.
27. And immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying: Be of good heart, it is I, fear ye not.

“The fourth watch of the night” corresponds, near the vernal equinox, to 3-6 A.M.; the Jews had only three night-watches [cf. Lightfoot, in 1.], but after the Roman conquest by Pompey they often followed the division of their conquerors . “Walking upon [επι] the sea ” does not mean “along the shore “ [cf. Paulus], since the preposition means “on the bank ” only with verbs of rest [cf. Jn 21:1, 4], never with verbs of motion; besides, the whole context is against this meaning. Why should the apostles “seeing himwalking” on the shore be “troubled”? why say, “it is an apparition”?  “why cry out for fear “? These details are as many proofs that they saw something wholly unusual. The belief in apparitions, or ghosts, was common to the Jews and Gentiles [cf. Tobit 8:3; Baruch 4:35]. It was only when the need of the disciples was seemingly at its highest that Jesus said, “Be of good heart; it is I; fear ye not.” During the first storm our Lord had kept near the apostles though he was asleep, during the second he was even bodily absent [cf. Chrysostom Cyril of Alexandria,  Theophylact]; but in both instances he proves that he watches over the boat of the apostles, the Church, whether he is absent or present, whether he seems to sleep or is awake [cf. Hilary, Jerome Theophylact Bede Paschasius Radbertus,. Faber Stapulensus Salmeron, Lapide,  Sylveiria].

28. And Peter making answer, said: Lord, if it be thou, bid me come to thee upon the waters.
29. And he said: Come. And Peter going down out of the boat, walked upon the water to come to Jesus.
30. But seeing the wind strong, he was afraid; and when he began to sink he cried out, saying: Lord, save me.
31. And immediately Jesus stretching forth his hand, took hold of him, and said to him: O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?

Peter walks on the water. Trench [Miracles, p. 279] and Alford blame Peter for his presumption, but Jerome, Chrysostom, Augustine [De verbo dei, serm. 13] are loud in the praises of his faith and ardor. The petition to do by the will of the Master what the latter did by his nature [Jerome], to obtain by the efficacious command [Cajetan] of the Lord what no prophet and saint of the Old Testament had been able to grant, shows a great progress in the faith of him that had not thought of asking for the miraculous multiplication of loaves. When, Peter “was afraid” on “seeing the wind strong,” he rendered himself unworthy of our Lord’s help by his distrust, and therefore “began to sink.” Another prayer, “Lord, save me,” procures him the efficacious assistance of Jesus, but teaches him also the source of his weakness and his strength: the former lies in himself, the latter in the divine help which is coextensive with his faith [cf. Chrysostom Jerome, Bede] , a most important lesson for the future chief pastor [cf. Thomas].  Hilary, Bede, Theophylact, Paschasius Radbertus,  Bruno, find a parallel between the present weakness of Peter’s faith and that manifested a year later, in his denial of the Master. Both occur on Friday night for since the eucharistic discourse was delivered on Saturday [Jn 6:60], the multiplication of loaves must have occurred on Thursday [Jn 6:22 ff.], the incidents between the miracle and the discourse occurring on Friday both happen after a stupendous miracle affecting the substance of bread, both again after a popular attempt to make Jesus king.

32. And when they were come into the boat, the wind ceased.
33. And they that were in the boat came and adored him, saying: Indeed, thou art the Son of God.

“The wind ceased” as soon as Jesus, and Peter “were come up into the boat”; John 6:21 may be rendered “they willingly received him,” though it seems to imply also a miraculous transference of the boat to the shore [cf. Jansenius, Calmet]; the adoration recorded in the first gospel may have occurred during the entrance of our Lord [Chrys. Euth.]. The adoration of the disciples and their profession, “thou art the Son of God,” may be understood in a wider sense, since “Son of God” is applied in the Old Testament to special friends and servants of God [cf. Ex 4:22; Deut 32:18; Isa 1:2; Jer 31:2; 2 Sam 7:14 [?]; 1 Chron 22:10; 3 Kings 5:5; etc.], and in this sense adoration is nothing but the special reverence shown them [cf. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan, Jansenius]; but the preceding stupendous miracles, the recognition of Jesus as the Messias after Matthew 11 the progressive character of the first gospel, the express doctrine of Jesus placing himself above the sabbath and the temple, render it extremely probable that “Son of God” must be taken in its strict sense, and that the adoration is an act of “cultus latriæ” [Theophylact, Jerome, Calmet, Knabenbauer, Schanz, etc.] in spite of the apostles’ crude knowledge of the Holy Trinity. For “they that were in the boat . . . and adored him” were the apostles [cf. Origen, Euthymius,  Maldonado, Ambrose, Schegg, etc.] , including, at most, a few sailors [Schanz].

34 And having passed the water, they came into the country of Gennesaret.
35. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent into all that country, and brought to him all that were diseased.
36. And they besought him that they might touch but the hem of his garment. And as many as touched, were made whole.

“The country of Gennesaret ” was a fertile district, with a mild climate, on the western shore of the lake, between Dalmanutha and Magdala, nearly four miles long and half as broad, described by Josephus as an earthly paradise [Jewish Wars III. x. 8]; its modern name is El-Ghuweir. “The men of that place” were most anxious that their friends and neighbors should derive all possible temporal advantage from our Lord’s presence; nothing is said about their spiritual condition. “The hem ” signifies again the fringes of his garment, by the touch of which the woman was healed, according to Mt 9:20-22. This is the fourth general description of our Lord’s ministry [cf. Mt 4:24; 9:35; 11:1]; it follows in each case a series of events grouped together, topologically, not chronologically.

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One Response to Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 14:22-36

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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