Today’s readings are all about faith and respect. In the first reading, Moses, acting on God’s orders, led his people into the desert. In the desert, however, the people were not happy – there was no food and no water. They said if they were going to die anyway, they would rather have died at home. Everyone is cranky, and they are blaming Moses, even though he was acting on God’s orders. They think Moses has actually taken them away from God. But God tells Moses to take all the people to a certain stone and to bring forth water from that stone so the people and their animals can drink and live. And he does that. The next line, “Because you were not faithful to me in showing forth my sanctity before the children of Israel, you shall not lead this community into the land I will give them” where God is berating Moses for his infidelity confused me for a while. But the problem was more with Moses’ attitude than his actions I think. Instead of telling the people that God had spoken to him and told him where to lead the people for water, he acts on the people’s personal blame toward him and reacts accordingly. He says, in response to their accusations that he has led them here to die of thirst, “Are we to bring water for you out of this rock?” Then he does. Like the power comes from him. Like he personally decided to bring the people to the desert, then he personally saved them by bringing water from the stone. It all came from God. God told them to flee and where, and then God gave them the water to save them. Moses is letting the people give him the blame, and then trying to redeem himself personally by bringing forth water, but it’s all God. Moses shouldn’t be taking the rap, or taking the credit.
In the Gospel we have a similar crisis of faith. Jesus asks his disciples who they think he is, and Peter comes up with the right answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But later when Jesus tells them all that he will die and rise again, Peter doesn’t want to believe it. He says, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” But God will not forbid it, He will allow it. Jesus rebukes Peter very strongly here. He calls him “Satan.” Like the people in the first reading, happy to be led out of slavery until times get tough. Then they doubt God and his vision for them. Peter is happy to recognize Jesus as the son of God, but will not trust God’s plan. In both cases, there is a bigger picture that the people involved in the situation cannot see at first. The people in the desert don’t trust God and are afraid that they will die of thirst. They can’t see that they will be saved and they falter in their faith. Peter can’t see beyond the physical loss of his friend and leader, even though the outcome will be amazing – and necessary.
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. Don’t be like the people in the desert or like Peter, ready to lose faith in a minute if things go bad. There’s a bigger picture we can’t see, but we have to have faith that God sees the bigger picture, and knows what He’s doing.
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