August 6, 2011
Ok people. Has anybody been paying attention to the mass readings of late? They're mostly from Exodus and Numbers - the Israelites, having just walked through the sea, are now wandering in the desert, flitting here and there, starving at some points, dying of thirst at others, and the only thing coming through loud and clear to me as I read is the incessant whine from the people. I swear, this is an entire pentateuch full of whine - high-pitched, constant, annoying grousing, which is getting old, and frankly, on my nerves.

I had to laugh the other day as I sat down to contemplate the day's readings, and read "...and the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and said to them, 'Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger'." And I thought, "wait, didn't I just read this yesterday? Did the Church make a boo boo and repeat the readings from yesterday or last week?" No. Because at just about every turn in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, take your pick, the story goes like this:

1. Moses and/or the people do something, ie. they travel to a new place.
2. Something happens, ie. the food runs out or there's no more water.
3. WHINE, COMPLAIN, MURMUR, GROUSE, DENOUNCE, DESPAIR, TANTRUM.
4. God gets angry and in his holy wrath someone pays, ie. the people are bitten by poisonous snakes.
5. Moses begs God to spare his people.
6. God relents and performs a great miracle and the people are filled to the brim and happy for three seconds.
7. Repeat.

Please people. Can you not see what is happening here? Can you not see the utterly astounding miracles that you have already experienced - walking through a sea, water from a rock, bread falling from heaven? Do you not remember what God has done for you? Why this ceaseless bellyaching? Yes, I agree. Would that you had died in Egypt and allowed me some peace and quiet in contemplating Yahweh - instead of you people.

And then a quiet little voice came to me. It was one of those little voices that I don't especially like to hear, but it was quite persistent in it's point. "If you can't see yourself committing all the same sins as the people in the Bible, you do not understand Sacred Scripture". It was my old theology professor's words coming into my head, and it definitely gave me pause. I guess it takes a whiner to know a whiner or better yet to be annoyed by a whiner.

I suppose that I whine a little bit. Maybe. Ok, so maybe I started a whole blog to contain my whining. And I think I'm not alone. My friend and I have a little saying designed to snap us out of our yammering sometimes. "You know me, I'm not happy unless I'm complaining".

We women have a penchant for complaining, don't we? I mean, how many of us think that we're the only ones that can do everything perfectly? So when a husband, coworker or family member attempts to, say, clean the bathroom, the first sentiment out of the mouth isn't "good job" or "well done", it's "SIGH. Why do I have to do everything myself to have it done right?"

Or lets talk about the Lord - how many times have I been granted astounding favours (like being given a car for free in university after I prayed for exactly that) and the very next moment I'm blaming God for giving me a paper cut or allowing me to stub my toe.

What a hypocritical ingrate.

Yet there is a great hope. Look again at the common theme running through these readings. Moses always pleads for mercy, and the Lord always grants it. And then a great miracle ensues. It almost seems like God knows the way we human beings are, and puts roadblocks into our lives in order to show his power, love and compassion. It's this mystery of the human condition - God works with us, yet expects better of us at the same time and gives us ample opportunities to improve.

Um, wow. Humbled...just a smidch. And as I continue reading through the beginning books of the Old Testament I am mortified in remembering my own sin, instead of judging the Isrealites in theirs. Yet the beauty of the Catholic Faith is that the Sacrament of Confession is available, and I can start again tomorrow fresh and new, with a firm purpose of amendment - and I can wait with baited breath to see what power and compassion the Lord wishes to show to me. Thanks Israel - for being so darn human!

3 comments:

  1. Beautiful! And I've learned it's not enough to just stop whining. Something has to fill that void - thankfulness. (Thanks to my dear husband for his constant example in this!) And many of us can't do it on our own. It's a gift which we must ask for. I've had to be persistent in petitioning God for it, but He has begun to grant it.

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  2. The Israelites 'murmured' against God. I've always loved that phrase: it's more subtle than outright muttering, but it is infectious like a plague. Get one person murmuring, and soon enough you've got the whole desert-wandering tribe murmuring right along.
    Thank goodness for Moses and all other intercessors, eh? "Dear Lord, have mercy on this stiff-necked people!"

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  3. Yeah, watch the same thing happen in a workplace...murmurings and soon a crowd that was more than happy to work through problems becomes pernickety and dissatisfied...we're more like the Israelites than I care to admit!!

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