Homily for July 30, Monday of the XVIII week in Ordinary Time, year I, Memorial of St Alphonsus Liguori
I really like today’s readings, because they show God’s immense patience and love for the people He chose, despite their human weakness.
First, we have Moses. He had been put in charge of leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. This wasn’t easy, because once they left Egypt, they were reveling in their newfound freedom (and hence were probably somewhat unruly). At the same time, they were pining for the food they had been provided by their masters in captivity. In today’s passage from the book of Numbers, the complaints of the people drive Moses over the edge. He calls out to God in utter exasperation, complaining that God is treating him badly by giving him this task, and asks to be struck dead rather than to go on this way. We might suspect that God would want to strike Moses dead for such insolence. Instead, in the verses that following God gives His Spirit to seventy men to help Moses and share the load of governing, and the Lord sends birds to satisfy the people’s desire for meat.
We can see similar patience and understanding in the Gospel. St Peter asks to walk on the water, and when his faith fails, he starts to drown. Jesus pulls Peter up immediately and only mildly rebukes him for his lack of faith. As with Moses, we have the case of a man chosen by God to lead the people, and when that man fails, complains, and cries out for help, God reaches down and lifts him back up. Both Moses and Peter continue on the path God set out for them, persevere until their death, and hand on their duty to a worthy successor.
The same thing could be said for today’s saint, Alphonsus Liguori. He was a bishop and the founder of a religious community, the Redemptorists. The first members of that community abandoned him, but the saint persevered and the congregation survives and serves the Church until today.
I think the message for us is twofold. First, don’t be afraid to tell God exactly what you feel. He knows anyway, so it’s better to be honest, as long as we are also seeking help and understanding and are open to God’s will. Secondly, we should never let weakness or failure discourage us. The Lord just asks us to do our best and to rely on His grace and wisdom. If things go badly, we should just ask for mercy and strength and move on.