First Reading Commentary
This Reading lines up well with this weekend's Gospel. We need only look at the local or national news and even personal experience to be familiar with strong and heavy winds associated with hurricanes and tornadoes; falling rocks and earthquakes also are extreme events of planet earth - and fires can get started virtually anywhere. Symbolically, these things come to us in the form of our often stressful and chaotic lives. While virtually everyone can relate to stress in their lives, sadly the percentages start to go down when it comes to how many take the time to listen for the "tiny whispering sound".
The "mountain of God" is for us a place of refuge. It can be in a room of your house where you seek solitude with the Lord; it can be in a parked car as you listen to the rain hit the roof of your vehicle; it can also be in a church, sitting with the Tabernacle or in Eucharistic Adoration.
In the book, "The Way of Silent Love" is the following passage: "The rhythm of modern life is so feverish, agitated and clamorous that the majority of people have to re-educate themselves in order to recover a rhythm that is in harmony with a deepening interior life. Stillness, silence, peace have to be learnt."
And from "The Spiritual Canticle" by Saint John of the Cross, he writes in his usual mystical language: "My Love is as . . . lover-like whisperings, murmurs of the breeze."
Second Reading Commentary
Our liturgical translation's use of the words "were accursed and cut off" are multiple words taken from a single word in an ancient Syriac translation. The Syriac word is "horma" to which the Latin Vulgate translates as an "anathema". By definition an anathema means: A formal ecclesiastical curse, ban or excommunication. It is the key to this Reading and has opened a virtual floodgate of theories as to what Saint Paul meant by this.
In ancient pagan cultures, anathemas meant people who were picked and separated out to be used as a sacrifice to appease the anger of the gods.
One theory suggests that Paul is referring to a time before his conversion when out of a false zeal he wished to be separated from Christ and all Christians for the sake of the Law and the Prophets, that is to say, the faith of his fellow brothers and sisters of the Jewish faith. Saint Jerome, however, believes that Paul is expressing a form of submission in which he would be willing to be sacrificed and undergo any form of death if it meant that the fruits of his sacrifice resulted in a conversion to Christianity by all the people of Israel. And yet another opinion from Saint John Chrysostom suggests that Saint Paul at this point in his life had already suffered so much that he was ready to face death and spend eternity in the peace and tranquility of his Lord and Savior. In other words, whatever our Lord called Paul to do, Paul was hoping he had finished the task. While Saint John Chrysostom believes that Paul may have been extremely grieved by the lack of conversions from his kindred and that in itself may have greatly contributed to his sufferings, it was, however, a secondary motive for his wish to be an anathema.
While most of us, thanks be to God, will never be called upon to endure what Saint Paul had to endure, it is, nonetheless, in our mini-sufferings, a great faith builder to know that many of the saints of our faith were tested by fire and were still able to lift their hands in worship to Almighty God.
Jesus wanted His apostles spared from the political frenzy that likely occurred after the multiplication of loaves and fishes in last weekend's Gospel; therefore, our Lord makes His disciples get into a boat and depart without Him. The apostles now a few miles offshore probably wished that Jesus was with them in the boat when they faced the heavy winds and were tossed about by the waves. Not long before this, they had eaten the loaves and fishes and now face this storm. Likewise, the Eucharist is our necessary Food in order for us to face the hardships of our own lives.
The fourth watch of the night is between the hours of three and six in the morning. Jesus rejoined His apostles by miraculous means but it may also have been the only way. When things seem hopeless, Jesus teaches us to never rule out the miraculous.
Peter's request for the Lord to command him to come to Jesus in the water is an act of faith. But like Peter, when we turn our focus away from Jesus we begin to sink into our situation and become overwhelmed. Even in Eucharistic Adoration, if one has the discipline to never turn their eyes away from our Eucharistic Lord, still, deep inside, in human weakness, there's a part that wonders if Jesus is really there. If that opposing inner voice can be heard, then we certainly have the ability and grace to hear the other Voice - the Voice of Love - the gentle whisper. And that Voice may ask: "Why did you doubt?"
Meteorologists tell us that the eye is the calmest part of a hurricane. In the midst of our storms -- stress, hurriedness, job, finances, health, etc. - somewhere in all that mess is the "Eye" Who is our God. An anonymous Carthusian monk wrote: "In all that we do, and at every moment, God has ordained an exact balance between what we have to do and the necessary strength to do it; and this we call grace. Our part is to bring ourselves into line with grace. God uses all the horrors of this world for an infinitely perfect end, and always with an infinite calm. It is part of His plan that we should feel the blows and experience the wounds of life; but more than anything else He wants us to dominate them by the virtues of faith, hope and charity, and so live on His level. It is these latter which will raise us up to Him, and then we shall share in His calm, in the highest part of our being."
Let us not overlook that prior to walking on the water to save His apostles, "Jesus went up on the mountain by Himself to pray." Beyond the obvious lesson that we should also spend time in solitude, in the loving embrace of our God, we are also perhaps taking another look at the human condition which compelled our God, that is, compelled Love, to clothe Himself in flesh and become Man. First Jesus is up the mountain, representing the Origin of Jesus, in perfect Communion with His Father and the Holy Spirit; then Jesus descends from the mountain to save His apostles, that is, Jesus descends to earth to save His people from the storms in which they find themselves. As written in "The Letter of Bar Naba" or "Epistle of Barnabas", translated from Greek: "this should make us approach His altar more proudly and eagerly." As Saint Catherine of Siena exclaimed: "O inæstimabilis caritatis abyssus!" - "O inestimable depth of charity!" (De Divina Providentia).