Reading (Numbers 12:1-13) Gospel (St. Matthew 14:22-36)
In the readings today, we see a couple of different reactions that come along with a lack of faith. In the first reading, for instance, we hear about Aaron and Miriam, the brother and sister of Moses, who were grumbling against Moses because of his marriage to a Cushite woman. What this means in a practical sense is that Moses had married an Ethiopian, a black woman; but more than that, it would be a woman who would have been from the tribe of Ham. Those would have been the enemies, in a sense, of the Israelites at that time. This is why they were grumbling against him. Yet, God, with His sense of humor – since they complained because Moses married a black woman – afflicts Miriam with leprosy and she becomes white as snow, which is a little bit humorous in the irony of what God does. Nonetheless, Moses then prays for his sister and that is taken away. But we see in the response of Aaron and Miriam their pride. When they did not like what Moses did, then they grumbled against him and said, “Does God speak through Moses alone? He should speak through us as well.” God has to take them aside and reprimand them for what they are doing. But in their own lack of faith, they decided that they knew better than what God knew, that they had a better plan, and that they would be the ones through whom God would now speak.
In the Gospel reading, we hear about another lack of faith, that is, the disciples out in the boat. First of all, they are terrified when they see the Lord; and then Peter, when Our Lord tells him Who He is, says, “If it’s really You, tell me to come to You across the water.” Peter comes to Him across the water and immediately begins to sink when he takes his eyes off the Lord. We are no different. When we take our eyes off Christ and we start looking at all the chaos in our lives and all the things going on around us, we too begin to sink. But if we are like Peter, then we can call out in faith, “Lord, save us!” and the Lord will immediately reach out and take our hand and pull us back up.
The problem was not the response of Aaron and Miriam and Peter after the fact. Aaron is willing to say, “Please do not hold this sin against us.” And Peter is willing to cry out, “Lord, save me!” The act of faith came only after they got themselves into trouble. What we need is not to have the faith after we are in trouble – we need that too, certainly – but we need to make that act of faith before we get in trouble. In both these circumstances, the people took their eyes off God and they focused on themselves. Then, when they were in trouble, they turned to God. If they would have kept their focus on the Lord, they would not have gotten into the problem they had in the first place.
So it is with us. We know that we can trust that God will forgive our sins, but how much better it would be if we did not sin in the first place. If all of our faith was in the right place and our focus was on God, we would not get ourselves into the problems, and then we would not have to cry out for Him to save us and not to charge us with the sin that we had committed. It is a good beginning to have the faith afterwards, but Jesus chastised Peter and called, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ He will say the same to us. Not because we have come to Confession and asked for mercy, but because we doubted and we had little faith beforehand. We took our eyes off God, we put it on ourselves or on other things, and we began to sink.
We need to learn to keep our eyes on God, to have our faith centered on Jesus Christ, and to be strong in that faith. Not to get caught up in what is around us and begin to sink in the mire; but rather, even before we are in trouble, to have our faith focused on Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.