Tuesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]
Numbers 12:1-13 + Matthew 14:22-36 [or Matthew 15:1-2,10-14]
August 3, 2021
“Those who were in the boat did Him homage, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’”
Very unusually, on this weekday in Ordinary Time the Church provides two options for the day’s Gospel passage. The following reflection is based upon the former option.
The Church bears a rich treasury of interpretation of Sacred Scripture. By that I don’t simply mean that the Church has accumulated many different, though equally insightful, interpretations of Scripture from the writings of her many members (although that’s true). The Church’s treasury of Scripture interpretation is based upon a four-fold view of the Holy Bible.
The first view of the Bible looks at the literal meaning of a Scripture passage. In the case of today’s Gospel passage, for example, the literal meaning of the passage is an historical event involving Jesus interacting with His disciples, and miraculously walking on water. One could write a long and spiritually fruitful essay solely about the literal meaning of this passage.
However, the other three views of Scripture consider different “spiritual senses” of a given passage. That doesn’t mean, of course, that the literal meaning doesn’t deal with spiritual matters. But the three spiritual senses of Scripture relate the literal meaning to a broader meaning that the passage doesn’t directly touch upon.
For example, at the end of today’s Gospel passage, those who were in the boat did Jesus homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” Above and beyond the literal meaning of this event, one can “see” the boatful of disciples confessing the divinity of Jesus as symbolizing the Church Militant (that is, the Church on earth). Around this basic symbol are several complementary symbols: for example, the water on which the boat rests, and the weather surrounding the boat, as the turbulent world in which the Church Militant lives; and the confession of faith as a symbol of the Sacred Liturgy of the Church which receives Jesus into the Church’s “boat”.
It is easier to ponder the literal sense of Scripture than the three spiritual senses. But with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the examples of the Church’s saints, the three spiritual senses of Sacred Scripture invite us into rich theological waters.