Jer 28:1-17; Ps 119:29,43,79,80,95,102; Mt 14:22-36
Indeed, it is not just our ministry that is a threat to the evil one, it must be our life of holiness that is Satan’s problem. All the saints have prayed constantly that the LORD would remove the way of falsehood, and favor them with his law. They longed to think and speak only the truth for in God’s ordinances was their hope. For all who fear the LORD and acknowledge his decrees, the saints are a challenge and comfort for sinners. With their hearts growing to perfection in the LORD’s statutes they were not put to shame. Though hardhearted sinners and the evil one himself tried to destroy them, the saints continued to pay heed to your decrees. From the ordinances of the LORD the saints turn not away, they continue to trust the Divine Teacher. In the first reading today we are called to reflect upon that which makes one a true prophet as we witness Jeremiah in public conflict with Hananiah. In our gospel reading Saint Peter learns to trust the Lord Jesus; this is a lesson all of us must learn as we walk on the stormy sea. Being a true prophet and a trusting disciple are necessary dimensions of holiness for saints in every age.
Jeremiah made the attempt to be a wise and considerate teacher for the upstart Prophet Hananiah. The Prophet Jeremiah reminded Hananiah that from of old the prophet who prophesies peace is recognized as truly sent by the LORD only when his prediction is fulfilled, especially when it had to do with peace and prosperity. Evidently, the younger prophet felt slighted or even doubted by the older, more seasoned prophet, Jeremiah. “Thereupon the prophet Hananiah took the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and said in the presence of all the people: ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘Even so within two years I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from off the neck of all the nations.’” Such a public challenge, even if a bit melodramatic, was just the teachable moment Jeremiah needed. The next time they met the LORD had a message for the false prophet Hananiah. It was not good news, but it makes the point for all who hear this reading. If you cloak your politically correct message with the aura of divine attribution the LORD will sort it out in his own time. There are many who claim prophetic gifts, but the future will unfold the true prophet. Hananiah tried to offer false comfort and deadly security to Zedekiah and all the people of Judah. Such false prophesying is dangerous for the people of God, and the false prophet does not fare too well either. Even though the true prophet may be unpopular and persecuted, ultimately the fire of God’s judgment vindicates the true prophet.
No matter how painful it is, obedience always bears a blessing. In today’s gospel the disciples are obedient to Christ who sends them into a boat to precede him to the other side. The blessing of Saint Peter and the other disciples in the boat upon the stormy sea is prayer. Saint Peter learns to pray with authenticity as he obeys the Lord Jesus’ command, “Come.” At first they were terrified, when they saw the Lord walking upon the waves of the stormy sea. They cried out, “It is a ghost!” This fear the Lord Jesus addresses and dismisses, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Saint Peter seems to trust in his word and steps out of the boat and begins to walk on the raging waters. Peter’s courage and hubris is quickly dispelled by the strong wind and terrifying sea. Then he begins to sink. Perhaps we have been where Saint Peter finds himself. Perhaps we have learned how to pray, “Lord, save me!” Saint Peter received a double portion in response to his prayer. He was rescued from drowning by the mighty hand of the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus asked why he doubted and this challenged him. The only honest answer to the question the Lord asked Saint Peter is the silence that admits, “I was afraid.” It’s only natural to be terrified when the waves overwhelm us. Now that he has been rescued, he can become even more trusting and have no fear. As today’s gospel concludes Saint Mathew uses the ignorant and fickle crowds to contrast with the insider and faithful Saint Peter. The sick and the beggars, who are overwhelmed with disease and disaster in their lives, are held up as a contrast to Saint Peter. These came to Jesus without fear and tried to touch only the tassel on his cloak, and they were healed. We who are so confident in our knowledge of the scriptures need to be challenged by the simple faith of those who expect the Lord Jesus to love and heal us, even when we are overwhelmed and afraid. As Saint Peter learned from his own fear, he also learned from the fearless sick and beggars.