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Tuesday – Eighteenth week – OT1
Readings: Num 12:1-13; Mt 14:22-36.
1/ First Reading: RSV Numbers 12:1 Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman; 2 and they said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the LORD heard it. 3 Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth. 4 And suddenly the LORD said to Moses and to Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. 5 And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed; 10 and when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. And Aaron turned towards Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the LORD, “Heal her, O God, I beseech thee.”
2/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 14:22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent round to all that region and brought to him all that were sick, 36 and besought him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well.
I. THEME: The sin of doubt is the enemy of faith.
We need to make a difference between the two areas of our life: the natural area is what we can understand and control them and the supernatural area where we need God’s light and grace to understand them because they exceed human power.
Today readings want to remind people to differentiate between these two areas and to absolutely believe in God. In the first reading, when Miriam thought too high of herself that she also has God’s power and doubted God’s active power in Moses. God punished her to be with leprosy for seven days. In the Gospel, Jesus accepted Peter’s request and let him walk on the water as he does; but when he started to fear the storm, he began to sink and shouting for help. Jesus came and took him by his hand and said to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
1/ Reading I: Miriam and Aaron doubted Moses’ position and power.
1.1/ The reason for doubting: Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses of the Cushite woman whom Moses took as his wife. They also thought highly of themselves when they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?” And the Lord heard their words.
– Cushite used to indicate Ethiopia, but can also be a part of North Africa (Hab 3:7). It is posible that the woman whom Moses took as his wife is Zipporah of the Midian (Exo 2:21).
– The marriage with a foreign woman is only the supplemental reason for their opposition; the main reason is their jealousy with Moses’ position as the lone mediator between God and people. Miriam and Aaron were shrewd to hide their jealousy by paying their attention only to the supplemental reason, Moses married a foreign woman! They wanted to have Moses’ position; they wanted people to respect them as they respected Moses.
– Miriam, Aaron’s sister, was regarded as the prophetess (Exo 15:20). The victorious song which the Israelites sang in the Exodus event was composed by her.
– Moses was consider the most “meek” in this world. The Hebrew noun used here is “anawim” which means the humble one who recognized his position and revered God. If we must render more exact, it must be translated as “the lowly” as the Blessed Mary in the Magnificat. The author wanted to contrast between Moses’ virtue with Miriam sin.
1.2/ God interfered: All of sudden, God said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the tent of meeting.” And the three of them came out. God wanted to give Moses more than the prophet’s position.
(1) The prophet’s position: God said to Aaron and Miriam: “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.” Vision and dream are the most popular ways which God used to communicate what He wants for the prophets, so that they might announce them to people.
(2) Moses’ lone position: “Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Moses is the only one who can converse with God face-to-face without being struck dead (Exo 33:20).
1.3/ God punished Miriam: “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed;and when the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow.”
(1) Aaron’s reaction: Aaron said Moses: “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb.”Why God didn’t punish Aaron? It might be because he didn’t oppose Moses, just wanted to please Miriam.
(2) Moses’ reaction: Moses interceded with God for Miriam: “Heal her, O God, I beseech thee!” Moses was permitted to know that Miriam must be separated from people during seven days; after that, she shall be healed and returned to live with people. She died and was buried when the Israelites came to the desert of Sin (Num 20:1). The sin of pride is compared by many authors as the leprosy before God, probably has the origin from this event.
2/ Gospel: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
2.1/ The apostles feared when they were confronted a great storm: After performing a great miracle to feed more than five thousand people, Jesus commanded his apostles to cross the sea to other side first while he dispersed the crowd. After that, Jesus climbed up to a mountain to pray. The evening came, Jesus still remained there alone while his apostles’ boat was far away from the shore, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them.
Some people wonder why this miracle is reported right after the “Feeding of the Five Thousand” by all the evangelists. Some scholars answered it is because Jesus wanted to test his disciples’ faith to see if they absolutely believe in his power. Other opinion said that Jesus wanted to show he has power over all natural powers such as storms and waves.
From the mountain, Jesus can clearly see what happened for his apostles on the sea. When he saw them struggled against wind and waves, he decided to walk on the sea to came to them. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But Jesus immediately spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”
2.2/ The result of doubting: Seeing Jesus walking on the sea, Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”
Peter could walk on the surface of the sea because he completely believe in God, having no doubt in his power. Similarly with our life, when we completely believe in God, He shall use His power to guide our life. The one who has faith can do things that exceed human ability, because he is assisted by God’s power and guidance. Peter’s doubt began to happen when he paid attention to surrounding dangers and forgot to look at Jesus; therefore, he feared and started to sink. Jesus himself rebuked him when he reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Doubting is the most dangerous enemy of faith. When people doubt God’s power, they shall believe in their power or the worldly powers; therefore, they begin to live far away from God. Some people even said that why do they need to ask for God’s help when they can do everything by themselves, such as: to earn money for their living and to try hard to be successful in their life. These people shall recognize the necessary of faith when they must face sufferings, failure, diseases and all other dangers when their strength isn’t enough to overcome them. At such time, it is too late for them to strengthen their faith.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to learn so that we know our relation with God, others and the world. A prideful attitude causes more damages than benefits for us and others.
– We need to have a strong faith so that we should never doubt God’s power and providence. Such a faith shall help us to face the hardships of life and to overcome them successfully.