A rebellion during the Exodus from Egypt
The people said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.” Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the Israelites. And Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the Israelites, “The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us; their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” But the whole congregation threatened to stone them. Then the glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”
But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for in your might you brought up this people from among them, and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O Lord, are in the midst of this people; for you, O Lord, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go in front of them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21
Out of compassion, Jesus cures the sick and multiplies food in a deserted place.
Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Don’t be afraid
The reading describes a blazing row between Moses and some rebels among the people he was sent to lead. We must remember that the refugees he led out of Egypt were “a crowd of mixed ancestry” (Exod 12:38) and we are told about an alien, foreign element among them (Num 11:4). The Hebrew word might well be translated “riffraff.” If such people are to be moulded into a “kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exod 19:6), it will only be after long years of purification and patient training. Moses wanted them to take the risk of crossing immediately into the promised land; but they rebelled and threatened to stone him unless he went their way. So his impatience at their rejection of his leadership need not surprise us; and yet he prayed to God to forgive them and continue to show mercy.
Jesus’ disciples were tempted to follow the easier way out of trouble. We read in the first gospel account: As evening drew on, his disciples came to him with the suggestion, “This is a deserted place and it is already late. Dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.” Whenever we ourselves are faced with a difficult challenge, our response should not be dictated only by our command of financial or other resources, but by the promptings of compassion and respect for others. In this part of our heart we will hear Godgenuine ‘s word. At such times we too should imitate Peter and cry out, “Lord, save me.”