4th August. Tuesday, Week 18

Feast: Saint John Vianney, priest (see below)

1st Reading: Numbers 12:1-13

Despite the envy of Aaron and Miriam God appoints Moses as supreme leader of his people.

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

Jesus retires to pray, walks on the water, saves Peter from sinking

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.


Saint John Vianney, priest.

Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney (1786-1859), commonly known as The Curé d’Ars, is honoured in the church as the patron saint of all priests. In a ministry which began in 1815 he was notable for his priestly zeal in his parish, his simplicity and ascetical lifestyle, his tireless hearing of confessions, and his ardent practice of personal prayer. His example did much to restore the confidence of the French clergy, after the disasters of the revolutionary era. Something of the severity in his sermons can be sampled at Work of God

Frictions in the family

Never neglecting his people, God comes to the rescue in a moment of crisis, defending Moses against the envy of Miriam and Aaron. The disciples of Jesus have their own crisis, tossed in a violent storm on the lake of Galilee, but they are saved from drowning. The former crisis was caused by devout people being too easily scandalized by Moses’ marriage with a foreign woman. The second crisis came 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 resistance to a marriage not acceptable to the rest of the family should afflict even someone of the stature of Moses. In light of 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. Like the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, there is “no crying out, no shouting, no making his voice heard in the street” etc (Isa 42:2-3). Moses is canonized as “the humblest man on the face of the earth.” Strange, that the man who accomplished so much was characterized most of all by his silence. As the sage Ecclesiastes remarked, “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 episode suggests that during family disputes we find the right time for silence. This reconciling 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.


Moments of prayer

There are three moments of prayer in today’s gospel. There is the prayer of Jesus. We are told that after sending the crowds away, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. This is the prayer of communion. Jesus enters into communion with his heavenly Father. We might think of it as the prayer of contemplation. The second moment of prayer in the gospel is the desperate prayer of Peter, “Lord, save me.” This is the prayer of all those who feel threatened or overwhelmed by some situation or other. We can probably all identify with this second moment of prayer. We have all known situations where the ground appears to be opening up beneath us and we have a sense of ourselves as sinking.

The gospel declares that in response to Peter’s prayer, Jesus held him. The Lord will always respond to our prayers out of the depths. The third moment of prayer in the gospel is the prayer of the disciples in the boat after the wind dropped, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” This is the prayer of praise, which rejoices to acknowledge Jesus for all that he is. The prayer of petition is bracketed by Jesus’ prayer of communion and the disciples’ prayer of praise. Even though the desperate prayer of petition probably comes most easily to us, we are called to all three forms of prayer. As well as a time to petition the Lord, there is also a time just to be with the Lord, and a time to give him thanks and praise. [Martin Hogan]

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