A Reflection on the Daily Readings by Deacon Manno
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
The Memorial of St. John Vianney
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew is the story of Jesus walking on water. Interestingly, it is the same Gospel that you will hear this Sunday at Mass. Now you might ask why the Church has scheduled these two passages for the same week, after all, isn’t that a bit redundant?
Well the Church does plan the liturgy readings carefully, but this may be more of a function of the calendars used. You see, the daily Mass readings are on a two year cycle while the Sunday readings are on a three year cycle. Thus it’s not unusual that mathematically the two calendars might – and I emphasize the word “might” – sync like this.
What the Church does, however, is to put together the Scripture readings so that they can tell a story, or make a point. Today is a good example of this. Normally when we read today’s Gospel we hear of Jesus walking on the water, of the disciples in the boat scared thinking they were seeing a ghost, and Peter, recognizing Jesus asking him to call him out on the water too. Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking on the water towards Jesus then, as the wind picks up, starts to sink and calls out for help. “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” he asks Peter.
Then we are quick to put together a simple message: Keep your eye on Jesus and your faith in him always. It’s when you look away and lose faith that you sink. So far that’s a pretty good interpretation.
However, now let’s read that with the passage from Jeremiah in mind. In Jeremiah, the Jews of Israel’s northern kingdom had been sent into exile by the Assyrians. But now, over a hundred years later, the Assyrian kingdom was itself failing and Jeremiah can see hope for the return of the Jewish people. In the passage Jeremiah is ruminating about how the Jews were sent asunder because of their unfaithfulness, but now are coming back.
“Thus says the Lord: See! I will restore the tents of Jacob, his dwellings I will pity; City shall be rebuilt upon hill, and palace restored as it was.” Historically it did take the Jews a little more time to get back from exile, but Jeremiah’s message of hope coupled with Peter being pulled from the drink make an even more powerful teaching than just the Gospel alone.
What, I think, the Church is trying to say by putting these readings together on the same day is that even in extreme distress God is there to rescue his people – individually and as a nation. God is faithful to all his promises – they are unbreakable to him. It matters not what our problems might be – political as with the Assyrians, environmental as with Peter, or individually as with each of us.
Whatever God has pledged to us he will remember and honor. But what he asks is our trust and faithfulness in him.
Today all three types of problems plague us. Today’s readings teach us that we need not be overwhelmed, that the man walking on the water sees and hears our needs and is ready to respond.
St. John Vianney, was a parish priest in Ars, France and also known as the "Curé d'Ars." He was known for his pastoral work due to the spiritual transformation he fostered in Ars and the surrounding community. He lived a saintly life of mortification and was especially gifted as a confessor and was devoted to the Blessed Virgin. He died on this date in 1859 and is venerated today as the patron saint of parish priests. As you read this reflection, and with his intersection, please offer a special prayer for all the great priests that serve us, not only in this parish but throughout the world.