Don’t Be Fickle

'Lost and Found' by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.
“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.

August 5, 2021

Thursday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major

Reading 1
Numbers 20:1-13

The whole congregation of the children of Israel arrived in the desert of Zin in the first month, and the people settled at Kadesh.

It was here that Miriam died, and here that she was buried.

As the community had no water, they held a council against Moses and Aaron. The people contended with Moses, exclaiming,
“Would that we too had perished with our kinsmen in the Lord’s presence!

Why have you brought the LORD’s assembly into this desert where we and our livestock are dying?
Why did you lead us out of Egypt, only to bring us to this wretched place which has neither grain nor figs nor vines nor pomegranates?
Here there is not even water to drink!”
But Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the meeting tent, where they fell prostrate.
Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them,and the LORD said to Moses,
“Take your staff and assemble the community,
you and your brother Aaron,
and in their presence order the rock to yield its waters.
From the rock you shall bring forth water for the congregation
and their livestock to drink.”
So Moses took his staff from its place before the LORD, as he was ordered.

He and Aaron assembled the community in front of the rock,
where he said to them, “Listen to me, you rebels!
Are we to bring water for you out of this rock?”
Then, raising his hand, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff,
and water gushed out in abundance for the people and their livestock to drink.

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
“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.
”These are the waters of Meribah,
where the children of Israel contended against the Lord,
and where the LORD revealed his sanctity among them.

Matthew 16:13-23

Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
and he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply,
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Then he strictly ordered his disciples
to tell no one that he was the Christ.

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”


One of the things I struggle with – as a man, as clergy – is thinking I must give a quick answer because I need to fix the problem. But too often, I will give a wrong answer in my haste and after thinking about it I want to correct it. But that makes me appear to be fickle in my response – too wishy washy and easily changing my mind.
In today’s readings – both – we see a distinction drawn between the steadfast love of God for his creation and man’s fickleness in his love of God.

We know what God did in the life of Moses – saving him from the slaughter of Jewish male babies by Pharaoh, putting him in the home of the Pharoah’s sister, raising him in power and wealth – but eventually he is cast out for killing an Egyptian. Then, God sends him back to lead God’s people to the Promised Land to where we find him today at Meribah.

The Jews are complaining – even though God has freed them from slavery of 400 plus years – that they have no water. God tells Moses what to do – stand on the rock and God would make water flow forth. But Moses, in his anger at the complaining, struck the rock hard with his staff.

If Moses had taken a moment to think before his response, he very likely would have entered the Holy Land with the Children of Israel. But Moses was fickle – messenger of God and all too human.

Then in the Matthew’s depiction of Peter’s responses to Christ, we hear him answer perfectly, Christ’s question, “But who do you say that I am?” He says Jesus is the Christ, son of the living God. And Jesus praises him and says he is the rock upon which he will build his church.

Peter is the Rock of Meribah from which the living water of Christ will flow forth.

Would that Peter had just shut up? Instead, knowing who Jesus was – when Jesus says he will have to suffer and die at the hands of those in charge in Jerusalem – he steps up and tells Jesus nothing like that will happen. Moses was fickle – knowing and praising Jesus but all too human.

Jesus rebukes him for throwing up obstacles to his mission.

We must learn to bite our tongues. We don’t have to have an answer for everything. Let God speak through us. Don’t be fickle.

As we celebrate the Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major, how often do you think the Holy Mother bit her tongue? She loved Jesus so much, but she knew who he was and knew his mission. So, she allowed his mission to play out knowing that he would die.

Learn to bite your tongue. You don’t need a quick answer – you need a good answer.

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