02 Aug, Tuesday of Week 18
Num 12:1ff. Despite the envy of Aaron and Miriam God appoints Moses as supreme leader of his people.
Matt 14:22ff. Jesus retires to pray, walks on the water, saves Peter from sinking and cures people who simply touch the tassel of his cloak.
Never neglecting his people, God comes to rescue them in a moment of crisis, defending Moses against the envy of Miriam and Aaron. The Israelites are drawn back from the land of exile; and the disciples, adrift on the lake of Galilee in a violent storm, are saved from drowning.
In the first instance the problem is caused by devout people, too easily scandalized by Moses’ marriage with a foreign woman. The second problem came from political forces, the Assyrian invasion of the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the third from natural causes, sudden windstorms sweeping on the Lake of Galilee from the Mediterranean. No circumstance is either too insignificant or too critical for the Lord not to help us.
It is almost consoling that such common frictions as brother-sister envy and a marriage not acceptable to the rest of the family should afflict a person of the stature of Moses. Granted his exceptional career and his intimacy with God, his position as lawgiver and founder of the Israelite nation, one might think him exempt from the normal problems of other people. But it is impressive that throughout the episode we never hear from Moses himself, who remains silent under the criticism. We remember the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, “Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. The bruised reed he shall not break” etc (Isa 42:2-3). The silent Moses is canonized as “the meekest man on the face of the earth.” Strange, that the man who accomplished so much was characterized most of all by his meekness. As the sage Ecclesiastes remarked in unforgettable style, “There is an appointed time for everything, a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak (Eccles 3:1,7).
“Lord, teach me the right time for things.” The Bible suggests that during family disputes we find the right time for silence. Another moment for silence, this time far more tragic and overwhelming, is described by Jeremiah. The northern Kingdom of Israel had been broken by the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and its people taken forcibly into exile. Jeremiah’s family was among the few left behind. Now more than thirty years later, as the Assyrian empire was collapsing and falling apart, Jeremiah sees hope for their return. Earlier it had seemed hopeless, “Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise;” but this desperate situation was not too hopeless for the Lord. Jeremiah is inspired to declare: See. I will restore the tents of Jacob. City shall be rebuilt on hill. From them will come songs of praise.
This optimistic spirit continues into the gospels: Jesus saves the disciples, adrift on stormy waters on the Lake of Galilee. His concern also comes to their defense when they fail to wash their hands religiously before eating. Events both small and great show the tender way that God fulfills all his promises. Meekness and prayer, whether it be like Moses ecstatic on Mount Sinai or silent before his detractors, or like Jesus who “went up on the mountain by himself to pray”; or like Jeremiah “hoping against hope” and always allowing God to decide the time and way to come to our help.
First Reading: Numbers 12:1-13
While they were at Hazeroth, Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had indeed married a Cushite woman); and they said, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard it. Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than anyone else on the face of the earth. Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the entrance of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. And he said, “Hear my words:
When there are prophets among you, I the Lord make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams. Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak face to face – clearly, not in riddles; and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.
When the cloud went away from over the tent, Miriam had become leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam and saw that she was leprous. Then Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us for a sin that we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like one stillborn, whose flesh is half consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her.”
Gospel: Matthew 14:22-36
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.