For the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany Father Haydock illustrates the literal and spiritual discernment of the Gospel on the significance of the ship - the Barque as His Church and that He foretold we would have terrible storms trying to shipwreck souls. But if we place our trust in Him as our Supreme Admiral, our souls cannot be capsized, even if there be mutiny on board and false commodores come forth to try to take the ship's wheel and steer it in a direction St. Paul has identified as anathema. We need only to remember that God can calm the seas (the world) and cast those who contradict His teachings into the sea with a millstone around their necks as scandal mongers. There are countless analogies and imagery of maritime in describing the Church He founded upon the Rock of Peter.
Epistle: Romans 13: 8-10
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. For he that loveth his neighbor, hath fulfilled the law.
9 For Thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet: and if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Commentary on Verse 9 But that you love one another. This is a debt, says Saint John Chrysostom, which we are always to be paying, and yet always remains, and is to be paid again. – He that loveth his neighbor, hath fulfilled the law. Nay, he that loves his neighbor, as he ought, loves him for God’s sake, and so complies with the other great precept of loving God: and upon these two precepts (as Christ Himself taught us, Matthew 22: 40) depends the whole law and the prophets. (Wi.)
10 The love of our neighbor worketh no evil. Love therefore is the fulfilling of the law.
Commentary on Verse 10 Love of the neighbor worketh no evil. This, by the Latin, is the true construction; and not. Love worketh no evil to the neighbour, as it might be translated from the Greek. (Wi.)
Gospel: St. Matthew 8: 23-27
23 At that time, Jesus entered into the boat, His disciples followed Him:
Commentary on Verse 23 This bark is the Catholic Church. The sea denotes the world, the winds and the tempests show the attempts of the wicked spirits to overturn the Church. The Lord seems to sleep, when He permits His Church to suffer persecution and other trials, which He permits, that He may prove her faith, and reward her virtue and merits. (Saint John Chrysostom, homily 23 in Matthew 8) The apostles had followed their divine Master. They were with Him, and executing His orders, and it is under these circumstances they are overtaken with a storm. If their obedience to Jesus Christ, if His presence did not free them from danger, to what frightful storms do those persons expose themselves, who undertake the voyage of the present life without Him? What can they expect but to be tossed to and fro for a time, and at last miserably to founder? Faithful souls ought, from the example here offered them, to rise superior to every storm and tempest, by invoking the all-powerful and ever ready assistance of Heaven, and by always calling in God to their help before they undertake any thing of moment. (A.)
24 And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but He was asleep.
25 And they came to Him, and awaked Him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish.
Commentary on Verse 25 Should God appear to sleep, with the apostles, we should approach nearer to Him, and awaken Him with our repeated prayers, saying: “Lord, save us, or we perish.” (A.) – Had our Savior been awake, the disciples would have been less afraid, or less sensible of the want of His assistance: He therefore slept, that they might be better prepared for the miracle He was about to work. (Saint John Chrysostom, Homily 28)
26 And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up He commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm.
Commentary on Verse 26 Why are you fearful, having Me with you? Do you suppose that sleep can take from Me the knowledge of your danger, or the power of relieving you? (A.) – He commanded the winds. Christ showed Himself Lord and Master of the sea and winds. His words in Saint Mark (4: 39,) demonstrate His authority: Rising up He rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: Peace, be still. (Wi.) – As before our Lord restored Peter’s mother-in-law on the spot, not only to health, but to her former strength; so here He shows Himself supreme Lord of all things, not only by commanding the winds to cease, but moreover, by commanding a perfect calm to succeed. (Saint John Chrysostom, homily 29) How many times has He preserved His Catholic Church, when (to all human appearance, and abstracting from His infallible promises) she has been in the most imminent danger of perishing? How many times by a miracle, or interposition of His omnipotence, less sensible indeed, but not less real, has He rescued our souls, on the point of being swallowed up in the infernal abyss? (A.) – He commands the mute elements to be subservient to His wish. He commands the sea, and it obeys Him, He speaks to the winds and tempests, and they are hushed; He commands every creature, and they obey. Man, and man only, man honoured in a special manner by being made after the image and likeness of his Creator, to whom speech and reason are given, dares to disobey and despise his Creator. (Saint Augustine, homily in Matthew)
From this allegory of the ship and the storm, we may take occasion to speak of the various senses in which the words of Scripture may be occasionally taken. … The sense of Scripture is twofold, literal and spiritual. The literal is that which the words immediately signify. The spiritual or mystic sense is that which things expressed words mean, as in Genesis 22, what is literally said of the immolation of Isaac, is spiritually understood of Christ; and in Colossians 2: 12, by the baptism of Christ, Saint Paul means His burial. The spiritual sense in its various acceptations, is briefly and accurately given in the following distich:-
Littera gesta docet, quid credas allegoria,
Moralis quid agas, quo tendas anagogia.
27 But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey Him?